chapter  5
17 Pages

Bringing history back in : laws and the explanation of human action

I have tried to show that successful sociological explanations cannot be based upon models employed in the physical sciences, nor can attempts to create an alternative general and systematic frame of reference achieve explanatory success. I have argued that, as a matter of fact, attempts to formulate a systematic sociological macrotheory have either parodied the methods of physical science or distorted the contingencies of history in the interest of establishing spurious sets of causal or quasi-causal relationships linking dubiously-defined 'societal variables'. I have suggested that attempts to formulate sociological 'laws' invariably end in the assertion of triviality, tautology or falsity. But there is one escape hatch left open. For if the sociological theorist can establish that the explanations that professional historians characteristically employ, incorporate either explicitly or implicitly, macrosociological generalisations or 'laws', then he can construe his task as the reformation of the discipline of history-the explicit formulation of those general causal relation­ ships which the historian assumes in giving an account of past behaviour. I shall now firmly close this hatch.