Continuing the trail of books helpful as Seven theories of society (2002), Fifty contemporary thinkers, essential (2010) or Ten theories of human nature (2010), to name some of the series “Theorem”, the Chair brings back a book that can not miss in the library of the scholars of sociological theory: Fifty sociologists essential: the theoretical training (2013), translated by María Elena Fernández-Miranda-Nida of the original Fifty key sociologists: the formative theorists (2007).1
Fifty sociologists essential will be useful to those who approach for the first time in sociology, both from academic fields (sociology students) and for those that do, from areas not training, out of mere curiosity, for example, on the origins of sociology. Also for graduates of university degrees in Sociology or other related disciplines such as Anthropology or Social Psychology, which you may find interesting to an author (or author) who did not know almost anything in its formative stage.
In the plans of study of Sociology, as well as in most of the introductory manuals of sociology, is generally considered as the fathers-founders of sociology Aguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber. In most cases Saint-Simon is named as a precursor to, rather than as a founder. To consider Karl Marx as a founding father of sociology, there has been less consensus; this is due to the work of Marx has engaged in many fields: philosophy, history, political science, sociology, and economics. However, to consider Marx as the father-founder or not, the legacy of Marx has been –and remains– very extensive in the development of sociological theory, the so-called theory neomarxiana (The Marxism the hegelian Georg Lukács and Antonio Gramsci; critical Theory in the that are inserted by authors such as Jürgen Habermas, economic Sociology neomarxista, the Marxism of orientation historical, the Theory postmarxista). But could not enter into the category of “founding fathers of sociology” other authors such as Tocqueville, Pareto, Simmel, or so many others?
The above question falls hopelessly in the persistent indeterminacy of the criteria for delimiting the subject area of sociology, which confuses the history of the sociology of the self sociological theory. Said Robert K. Merton: “the social sciences in general, with the growing exception of the psychology and the economy, they tend to melt the current theory with its history, to a much greater extent than they do for sciences such as biology, chemistry, or physics”.2
If we focus on how did the new discipline of sociology, and who were the ones that contributed most –or more influence they had– to build the pillars of a new way of approaching and understanding the social reality, in this case we will be in the analytical framework of the history of sociology, and it seems reasonable to use criteria patri-foundational. In this sense, it will be interesting to know that Comte was the first to use the term “sociology” and that had a remarkable influence on Spencer and Durkheim; the theory of the evolution of societies, Spencer had great success at the beginning, but was later rejected because it considered that it fell within the social darwinism; that Durkheim legitimized sociology in France, especially in the wake of his deeds: the rules of The method of sociological (1895) and suicide (1897)and that had a great influence on the current sociological back of the functionalism structural of Talcott Parsons; Max Weber is said to have been the most influential figure in sociological theory, and his work, so extensive and varied, has been the subject of so many interpretations that its influence has been noted in the functionalism structural, the conflict theory, critical theory, symbolic interactionism, rational choice theory, the ethnomethodology..
It is possible –as argued by some authors– that sociology is not yet in the position of forgetting the works of their founders such as seem to have done in other sciences such as physics or biology. In other words, for the social sciences, including sociology, the direct knowledge of its founders represents a huge role still in comparison with physics or biology. We can say that sociology, before finding your Einstein, you will have to find its Newton. However, in the last decades, although they still do not have any celebrity widely known beyond its borders as Newton or Einstein, the sociology has passed in large part this obsession. Far from the excessive pretensions initials of Comte, and the Grand Theory of Parsons that could explain the whole and the parts of everything that happens in society, sociology has abandoned the practice of schooling, has focussed on objectives less pretentious –theories of intermediate-range, to which both referred to the Merton–, and has succeeded in recent years to produce a large amount of theoretical and empirical papers covering a wide range of plots of the social reality in which he has given evidence of sufficient scientific evidence to warrant attention from other fields of knowledge.
While it is necessary to differentiate between history and systematic theory, sociology is still touring roads back and forth in your history to fill many of the gaps of its theory. Many things were said at the time of the founding of the sociology that were left in oblivion, not only by those who have been considered founding fathers, but by many other authors of the time, which was underestimated and whose work, in its rediscovery, have been fundamental to give continuity to previous theories and to formulate new ones. From this perspective, rather than a “classic”, it is more typical to use the term “formative” –as suggested to us by John Scott– to refer to the theoretical (both have been labeled the founding fathers as to many other contemporaries that have recently received more attention than they had in their time) who contributed to “the formation of a body distinctive social theory and social research” in the period in which the sociology was beginning to position itself as a discrete discipline. Since then, in order to truly understand the full potential of the sociological theory of the “formative period” and the influence it has on contemporary sociology, a list of fifty theorists essential does most justice to the simplified list of four to six founding fathers.
The “formative period” comprises the greater part of the NINETEENTH century and the first half of the TWENTIETH century. Not all social theorists of this period were in agreement with each other, but if they had in common the concern to establish a disciplinary structures in which there is a theoretical debate and new forms of knowledge to approach and study the social reality.
Do not confuse the sociological theory with social theory. However, the sociology, the arise in a “training period”, played a new approach to the development of formulations and more general social theory. Social theory has also been developed in social sciences such as geography, political science, social psychology, etc., as Well, Scott justifies the inclusion in the list of some theorists that are considered to be outside of the own sociology. In Fifty sociologists essential has been added to a selection of political scientists, anthropologists, psychologists, linguists, and others that had special importance in the construction of debates formative of which emerged the new discipline of sociology.
Sociology is much more than a simple social theory. “Sociologists training were committed to empirical research and on a social reform, as well as in a social theory”. For example, Jane Addms (founder of the social movement of settlement houses in Chicago), Charles Booth, Seebohm Rowntree (researchers of poverty) , Helen Bosanquet (specialist in social work) and W. E. B. DuBois (activist of color), had a lot of weight in the creation of sociology. “An area that should be taken into account within a tradition of thinkers sociological −according to Scott− is marxism: from Marx to Georg Lukács and the work of a more academic Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse”.
To compile the list of the Fifty sociologists essential, John Scott conducted several consultations with their professional colleagues in the Department of Sociology of the University of Essex of great Britain. They were asked to vote on who should be definitely included in the list. The general list was divided at the end into two lists: one with the theoretical “training” and another with “contemporary”. The first is the one that occupies this book here review; the second is included in Fifty key sociologists: the contemporary theorists, and for that I hope, Chair publish soon the Spanish translation in Collection “Theorem”.
Next to John Scott (Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex) have participated in the preparation of this book, over thirty contributors whose signature appears at the end of the entry for each theorist on the list. Then you compose the list of the fifty that have been included:
Fifty sociologists essential: the theoretical training
|Jane Addams||Lewis Morgan|
|Theodor Adorno||Gaetano Mosca|
|Charles Booth||Gunnar Myrdal|
|Helen Bosanquet||Vilfredo Pareto|
|Auguste Comte||Alfred Radcliffe-Brown|
|Charles Cooley||Seebohm Rowntree|
|Oliver Cox||Ferdinand de Saussure|
|W. E. B. DuBois||Max Scheler|
|Émile Durkheim||Alfred Schutz|
|Edward Evans-Pritchard||Georg Simmel|
|Sigmund Freud||Albion Small|
|Antonio Gramsci||Werner Sombart|
|Ludwig Gumplowicz||Pitirim Sorokin|
|Maurice Halbwachs||Herbert Spencer|
|Leonard Hobhouse||William Sumner|
|Frederic Le Play||Gabriel Tarde|
|György Luckács||Alexis de Tocqueville|
|Bronislaw Malinowski||Ferdinand Tönnies|
|Karl Mannheim||Edward Tylor|
|Herbert Marcuse||Thorstein Veblen|
|T. H. Marshall||Lester Ward|
|Harriet Martineau||Lloyd Warner|
|Karl Marx||Beatrice Webb|
|Marcel Mauss||Max Weber|
|George Herbert Mead||Florian Znaniecki|
If you want to purchase a copy, you may do so at the following link:
Fifty sociologists essential: the theoretical training
- Scott, John (2007) Fifty key sociologists: the formative theorists. London; New York: Routledge. [↩]
- Merton, Robert King (2002) Theory and structure social. Mexico: Fundación de Cultura Económica. p. 17. [↩]