Improving Human Societies: Reassessing the Classical Theorists
This chapter presents an examination of some sociological theorists as a way of showing how their construction as “classical” often reflects a distortion of sociology’s emancipatory vocation. When the possibility of a realistic study of society was first proposed in the 1700s, it was a revolutionary idea. “In the eighteenth century,” writes historian Peter Gay, “for the first time in history, confidence was the companion of realism rather than a symptom of the Utopian imagination.” The concept of social order, so important in the history of sociological theory and analysis, is a legacy of sociology’s historical roots in nineteenth-century conservatism in Europe. Sociology was the queen of sciences at the top, the last science and the one that would discover laws governing social facts and synthesize the whole of human knowledge. Sociology would thus be equipped to assist in the reconstruction of society.