3.Historical Background -Culture of Sociology

3.Historical Background -Culture of Sociology - Course...

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Course Notes Sociology 160 The Culture of Sociology We will try, in this course to view the phenomenon of culture through the lens of so- ciology. But we might start by reminding ourselves that sociology itself is the product of a distinct culture. So the perspective it has on the question of culture is not neutral. In what follows, I’d like to go over the historical circumstances within which culture emerged as an object of study within western culture. There are three aspects of that historical situation that began in Europe in the seventeenth century that we will discuss this week. 1. The creation of nature during the scientific revolution 2. Universalistic theories of human nature and of the foundation of social order that were developed during the European Enlightenment in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. 3. The emergence of a planetary mode of production as the result of colonialism and imperialism, which forced disparate and previously isolated cultures and civiliza- tions into ongoing interactions with each other. We will discuss point 1 and 3 in lecture. As to point 1, we will be discussing the is- sues raised below in the section on cultural changes that accompanied the transition from traditional to modern society. For an interesting example of point 3, take a look at Bougain- ville’s description of the eighteenth century encounter of a French ship with the Tahitians and Diderot’s fictitious “supplement” to Bougainville’s account in the recommended read- ings. It gives an interesting case of culture shock in the early modern era. In what follows, we will address point 2. What is striking about Enlightenment thought is the radical nature of the break with the European cultural tradition that it repres- ents. We will reflect on the nature of that break with the past that established the contours of modern culture by 1) briefly outlining the major institutional changes, e.g. political, eco- nomic, social, cultural, that Europe was undergoing from the fourteenth century to the present and then 2) describing the major intellectual reflections on those changes that characterized Enlightenment thought. For it is within these philosophies of human nature and society that many of the leading questions of modern social science, especially soci- ology, were formed. Historical Background of Sociology Sociology did not arise in an historical vacuum. The concept of society as a distinct object of investigation emerged during the intense period of social change that took place in Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This process of change was reflected in the intellectual life of the time through the rise of a variety of philosophies, political ideologies and cultural institutions which, taken together, are referred to as the Enlightenment . Enlightenment philosophers attempted to understand this process of so- cial change and to develop a world-view that reflected the transition in Europe from vari- ous forms of
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3.Historical Background -Culture of Sociology - Course...

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