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Auguste Comte (1798–1857), the grand systematiser of positivism and the founder of a would-be science of society that he was the first to call “sociology,” is a formative, if neglected, figure in the development of modern social theory. Described by Althusser as “the only mind worthy of interest” produced by nineteenth-century French philosophy, Comte's thought parallels Hegel's in the scope of its synthesising ambition. His thought similarly bridged between the encyclopedists of the eighteenth century and the currents of historicism and social reform from which the social and cultural sciences emerged in the nineteenth.

Comte was a precursor of Durkheim, an affine (with Saint-Simon) of Marx, and an important reference point for Nietzsche, particularly in his critique of metaphysics as a miscegenated halfway house between theology ...

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