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The Rise of Social Theory

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The Rise of Social Theory


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The Rise of Social Theory by Johan Heilbron
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This book is a detailed and wide-ranging account of the birth of social theory as a distinctive and modern intellectual genre. Focusing mainly on France, Heilbron traces the origins of modern social theory in the Enlightenment and discusses the work of early theorists such as Montesquieu and Rousseau, although he also deals with the Scottish moral philosophers. He examines the trend towards scientizing social theory in the decades around 1800 and analyzes the first attempts to formulate sociology as a relatively autonomous discourse, culminating in the writings of Comte. Heilbron argues that it was the natural sciences, rather than moral philosophy or natural law, which became the leading intellectual model in the nineteenth century. The mathematician Cordorcet and a physiologist, Cabanis, were the most prominent representatives of this trend.Combining social and intellectual history, Heilbron examines changes in social science within the context of wider developments in the intellectual domain, and discusses the social conditions under which these changes occurred. The Rise of Social Theory is both a brilliant account of the 'pre-history' of sociology and a vivid portrayal of intellectual culture between the Enlightenment and the age of Romanticism. It will be welcomed by students and researchers in the social sciences, social and cultural history, and the history of science.

Author Biography

Johan Heilbron is a research fellow at the Amsterdam School for Social Research.
Release date NZ
March 13th, 1995
Country of Publication
United Kingdom
Polity Press
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