Ideology and the Development of Sociological Theory

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9780132553087: Ideology and the Development of Sociological Theory

This text explores the classical tradition of sociological thinking. The sixth edition introduces new coverage of major women theorists in the history of social thought.

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Preface

More than thirty years ago I was inspired to demonstrate that the "classical tradition of sociological thinking" had developed in the course of a long and intense debate—first with the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, and later with its true heir in the nineteenth century, Karl Marx. It is not far from the historical truth to propose that the classical tradition began with the Enlightenment thinkers. For it was they who pioneered in studying the human condition in a methodical way, by employing scientific principles in the analysis of society.

The Enlightenment thinkers upheld reason as the criterion by which to assess social institutions and their suitability for human nature and needs. Human beings, they maintained, are essentially rational. Hence, by criticizing and changing repressive social institutions, humans could widen the boundaries of freedom and thus actualize their creative powers and perfect themselves. The philosophers of the Enlightenment were therefore critical as well as scientific. Their central premises—the rationality and pefectibility of humanity—eventually inspired the French revolutionaries; and soon after the Revolution, influential European thinkers, attributing the causes of that violent upheaval to Enlightenment ideas, sought to repudiate them.

The response to the Enlightenment and to both the French and the Industrial Revolutions is treated by historians under the headings of Romanticism and the Conservative Reaction. This reaction constitutes an important stage in the development of social theory. For it was the Romantic-Conservatives who rejected the mechanistic metaphors of the Enlightenment and who replaced them with an organic conception of society and history. The response to the Industrial Revolution also gave rise to Positive Philosophy, the theories of Saint-Simon and Comte, the official founders of sociology.

Later in the nineteenth century it was Karl Marx who coined the term "capitalism" to describe the new type of society that had emerged as a product of the Industrial Revolution. Marx, as the severest critic of the capitalist system, called attention to its alienating character. In presenting his critique of the system, Marx developed a highly fruitful historical-sociological approach to the study of society. Marx's contribution to sociological thinking stands out in the context of the late nineteenth century as possessing extraordinary intellectual significance. That is true, I believe, not only because of his own original ideas, but also because of the widespread response his ideas provoked, a response that accounts, in a large measure, for the character of Western sociology. My discussion of Marx is therefore followed by the intense debate with his "ghost," the Marxian legacy.

In a series of chapters I present the ideas of several key participants in the debate—Weber, Pareto, Mosca, Michels, Durkheim, and Mannheim. Pareto, Mosca, and Michels—the so-called Neo-Machiavellians or Elite-Theorists—sought to repudiate the Marxian legacy; Mannheim actively employed Marxian concepts; and Durkheim developed his own approach as a kind of mediation between Comte and Marx by elaborating the ideas of their common intellectual ancestor, Saint-Simon.

As for Max Weber, who must be regarded as the greatest social scientist of the twentieth century, I show that his engagement with Marx, whom he describes as a "great thinker," is more complex than is widely assumed. It is not Marx whom Weber criticizes, but the Marxists after Marx, some of whom fostered a mechanistic and misleading view of Marx's ideas. Indeed, I document the proposition that Weber converges with Marx both substantively and methodologically, and that much of Weber's work may be understood as complementary to Marx's—an exploration of what Marx called the cultural or ideological "superstructure."

In each of the earlier editions of this book, I introduced new thinkers or materials with the aim of enriching the book's contents. In the present, seventh edition I have tried to fill a conspicuous "gap." All the thinkers in previous editions were Europeans who concerned themselves primarily with what we call the social or institutional structure of whole societies. They therefore had correspondingly little to say about interpersonal relations, and about such concepts as consciousness, mind, self, meaning, and motives. Here, too, Weber stands out as an exception for the systematic attention he gave to "meaning" in his Verstehensoziologie. I have therefore created an additional chapter on Weber devoted to his Methodology of the Social Sciences and to his Typology of Action.

But the truly new and larger addition with which I try to fill the gap is found in Part Five of this book, called The Classical Principles of Social Psychology. There I present the ideas of the American Pragmatist philosophers, Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, John Dewey, and George Herbert Mead. I propose that this movement has provided the soundest, most illuminating and, through Mead, the most "dialectical" conception of mind, self, and society. In the course of my exposition I show (1) that the young Marx had anticipated the chief ideas of the Pragmatists; (2) that despite or because of Weber's neo-Kantian epistemology, he converges with the Pragmatists in his grasp of the heuristic function of ideal-type concepts; and (3) that Marx, too, implicitly employed certain of his concepts as ideal-type constructs.

I trust, therefore, that the seventh edition of Ideology and the Development of Sociological Theory now effectively illuminates the basic dimensions of both social structure and social psychology.

Irving M. Zeitlin

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Key Benefit: This book explores the classical tradition of sociological thinking. Key Topics: The Sixth Edition introduces new coverage of major women theorists in the history of social thought.

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Zeitlin, Irving M.
Published by Prentice Hall College Div (1996)
ISBN 10: 0132553082 ISBN 13: 9780132553087
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