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Lecture 42

SOAN 2112 Lecture Notes - Lecture 42: Historical Method, Montesquieu, Blaise Pascal

Sociology and Anthropology
Course Code
SOAN 2112
Mark Hunter

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SOAN2112 19th Century Positivism – Saint Simon, Comte
Following FR The terror and Napoleonic wars – for most of Europe, considered a time of great
misery – invasion, occupation, brutal conditions etc.
Exploitation of the colonial poor – misery and oppression were paramount – peasants dying in
famine, millions of people emigrated to new world
Revolts – prompted national and social movements – utopian socialist movements, Marxist,
anarchists, against slavery etc.
Methodological advances – “the social question” – people moved in some ways by what’s going
on in society (what should the social question be)
Government – collect data on social issues
Reforms (e.g. criminal statistics) – became essential when England eliminated hanging for
Nationalist movements of people wanting to control their own destinies – meritocracy over
aristocracy – mass education over education for the elite
This period major on research, in effort to answer the social question – inspired methodological
The London Statistical Society (1831) – term scientist first used in 1833 – gov’t and official
statistical agencies formed AFTER grass roots organizations
Acknowledged agnostics/atheists include major figures – Marx, Engels, J.S Mill, Harriet Taylor,
Durkheim, Weber
Influenced all of mainstream sociology; influenced functionalism and Marxism
Lived through FR, addressed problems of industrial age
Coined phrases – “Industrialization”, “social physiology”, “positivism”
Bonald and Maistre took a reactionary response to FR and Enlightenment, called for medieval
reformation - INFLUENCED Saint Simon and Comte, less religious but were very interested in
their ideas – Saint Simon (founder of socialism – Marx dubbed him a utopian socialist, lived and
wrote before industrial developments had reached critical point, lived “too early” for class
conflict between bourgeoisie and proletariat in Marx’s time, couldn’t see where it was going, the
problems that would emerge)
Developed his ideas before 1814, Comte would pick up on later (possible stole ideas?)
Argued philosophies had contributed to disintegration of the old order – with insistence of
principles of equality and natural rights, all destroyed the old order, principles were destructive
and lead to revolutionary crises of the time
What would be a successful society? –Sought to create a new and organic social order based upon
new principles/forces that had come to view
Admired social unity of medieval order, acknowledged there was no going back
His Work:
a) Human knowledge
b) Social physiology – must become a positive science – employ scientific techniques like in natural
sciences – social life follows laws
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c) Scientific knowledge – to replace religious dogma
d) Education – needs to be replaced by natural scientific elite
e) Positivism – application of scientific principle to all natural phenomena
f) Scientific elite must replace spiritual authority of the church – the main force holding society
g) Conflict between the new haves and have-nots will continue – the property classes need to align
themselves to the most enlightened group in society – would bring about stable social order
Significant in developing conservative and radical theory
Conservative – wanted to preserve society as it was, didn’t seek return to life in middle ages
Radical – wanted socialist reforms (e.g. centralized planning of economic system)
Organizetuer - pursuit of organized system (ZEITLIN TEXT) – society must be governed by
educated elite
Stressed anticipation and purpose – how things could be changed for the better
Radicalism – Conflict Theory:
Social reform etc. discussion
Marx adopted Saint Simon’s terminologies, including using positivism interchangeably with
Idea that there is a life cycle to society – organic paradigm – not a sum of parts, everything is
interdependent, an organized machine
Machine analogy
Organic analogy etc. discussion
Interrelated systems changing in accordance with the underlying system of thought
History and Background:
Artist Corot (1796-1875)
Ecole Polytechnique
In 1817 Comte was introduced to Saint Simon – he took a lot of his ideas and made them his
own, had major and lasting influence on his life/work
Broke away in 1824, centred his work on positive philosophy
Wrote “Cours de philosophie positive”
Wrote “Cathechisme Positiviste”
Comte in love was a Comte transformed – dedicated all his work to his new mistress, had a
rebirth in his ideas following a depression caused by his wife’s return to prostitution
Wrote “Systeme de Politique Positive”
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