A unique contribution to discussions of social theory, this book counters the argument that no social theory was ever produced in Britain before the late twentieth century. Reviewing a period of 300 years from the seventeenth century to the mid-twentieth century, it sets out a number of innovative strands in theory that culminated in powerful contributions in the classical period of sociology. The book discusses how these traditions of theory were lost and forgotten and sets out why they are important today.
Chapter 3: Difference, Diversity, And Development In The Social Organism
Although a coherent and systematic social theory had begun to develop by the mid-nineteenth century, its principal achievements were in the specialised area of economic theory. An academic discipline of ‘Economics’ had begun to be established in British universities, a number of volumes of ‘Principles’ had been published, and a standard textbook embodying a disciplinary consensus was soon to appear (Marshall 1890). Sociology, however, remained a mere undeveloped possibility. It was opposed by many for its ‘positivist’ commitments, but was also challenged by those who had taken a different route towards understanding social life and had begun to develop alternative models of what a scientific sociology might look like. ...