A much-needed survey of the spectacular growth of interest in social history in the West

The Rise of Historical Sociology

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Dennis Smith

"Fresh in conception, fair, and elegantly written, a valuable guide to historical work by sociologists."
Charles Tilly, New School for Social Research

In the aftermath of its near-demise by fascism and Stalinism, the resurgence of historical sociology has been one of the most important developments in contemporary sociology and history. Dennis Smith traces the spectacular growth of interest in social history in the West in a much-needed survey that combines lively critique of key works with a framework of interpretation for this intellectual field. He locates the 'second long wave' of historical sociology extending from the post-World War II era into the present and provides a reliable and informative guide to the most influential authors who have contributed to this field in recent times.

Describing this discipline as the study of the past to find out how societies work and change, the author identifies three phases of postwar historical sociology. These periods were shaped by the battle with totalitarianism; the protest movements for student rights, Black Power, an end to the Vietnam War; the Women's Movement; and the fragmentation of the stable bipolar world of the Cold War. Within the context of these sociopolitical eras, Smith discusses the work of the following historical sociologists: Parsons, Smelser, Eisenstadt, Lipset, Marshall, Bendix, Bloch, Elias, Moore, Thompson, Skocpol, Tilly, Anderson, Wallerstein, Braudel, Mann, Runciman, and Giddens.



List of figures

1. Like a Phoenix Rising
The post-war resurgence of historical sociology • What is historical sociology? • Three phases of post-war historical sociology

2. Out of the Ashes
War and peace • The end of ideology? • The American way: Parsons and Smelser • Interpreting social dynamism • Handling and channeling social change • A laboratory report • The sociologist as patriot • Three ways to persuade • Citizenship and social class • Order and justice • Old empires, new nations: Eisenstadt and Lipset • Ideology and social conflict: Marshall and Bendix

3. Taking Flight
Injustice and domination • Human interdependence: Bloch and Elias • Feudal society • The civilizing process • An uppity generation? • Two critical rationalists: Moore and Thompson • Social origins of dictatorship and democracy • The making of the English working class • Moral codes and human choice • States and social revolutions • Comparing and explaining • Skocpol, Trotsky and Eisenstadt • The politics of social policy • Counter-revolution • Collective action • Coercion, capital and European states • Reason and revolution: Skocpol and Tilly

4. Soaring High
History from above • Two Marxian perspectives: Anderson and Wallerstein • From ancient Greece to absolutist monarchy • The figures of descent • The capitalist world-economy • Comparing Wallerstein and Anderson • Infrastructures of power: Braudel and Mann • Evolution and discontinuity (1) • The longue durée • The Mediterranean world • Civilization and capitalism • The sources of social power • Greece and Rome • The European dynamic • Classes, nations, states and warfare • Constructing theories: Runciman and Giddens • The methodology of social theory • Social evolution • Structuration or evolution? • From class-divided to class societies • Surveillance and citizenship • Nationalism • Evolution and discontinuity (2)

5. Historical Sociology in the 1990s
Historical sociology as an intellectual field • Established and outsiders • Involvement and detachment • Exploration, generalization and theory • Strategies of explanation • Historical sociology and capitalist democracy • The first phase: democracy expounded • The second phase: democracy exposed • The third phase: capitalism explored and exposed • The fourth phase: democracy re-examined • A new audience for historical sociology • The future of the past



About the Author(s)

Dennis Smith is Reader in Sociology at Aston University (UK).

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