• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

Social theory is a core area in Sociology degrees. This book attempts to lead students through the key thinkers and key ideas. The organizational principle is to focus on theoretical writing which is relevant for understanding the contemporary world. So the book asks what continuing use do theories of the Enligthenment, classical German sociology, Marxism and phenomenology have for making sense of our social world.

Positivist Turn: Auguste Comte
Positivist turn: Auguste comte

For a long time ‘positivism’ has been something of a swearword in social theory. It is often introduced to students of social theory as a simple-minded curiosity or an accusatory slight aimed at ‘applied’ social research's concern to uncover ‘objective’ facts, numbers and laws. Its founding figure, Auguste Comte (1798–1857), has long been disparaged as a self-deluded prophet suffering from a Bonaparte complex. He was damned with faint praise by the liberal philosopher Isaiah Berlin:

His grotesque pedantry, the unreadable dullness of his writing, his vanity, his eccentricity, his solemnity, the pathos of his private life, his insane dogmatism, his authoritarianism, his philosophical fallacies, all that is bizarre and utopian in his character and writings, need not blind ...

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