chapter  6
16 Pages

Sociology: Retrospect and Prospect

WithNeil J. Smelser

In this chapter, the author turns from retrospect to prospect and attempt to develop some guesses about some of the future directions for sociology. One might suggest that at that moment the Durkheimian vision of sociology had risen to prominence—again, in relative degree—over competing alternatives in three respects. The first was that sociology is the study of observable and objective facts in the social world—not speculative philosophy, not moral inquiry. The second respect was the Durkheimian insistence that sociological investigation lies at an analytically distinct social—not psychological or biological—level, and that society constitutes an independent level of reality. And the third element, also inherited from E. Durkheim, was that with regard to the understanding of social systems, greatest stress was given to the functional coherence and integration of their component parts. It is difficult to conceive how the behavioral and social sciences could be simultaneously trivial, useless, unscientific, and threatening.