How the History of Sociology Can Inform Contemporary Theorizing in Sociology: A Framework

Monday, 16 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Christian DAYÉ, Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, Austria
The main objective of this paper is to propose a scheme that systematizes ways in which the history of sociology can be useful for the current theorizing. It thus so by first discerning the objective to inform theorizing from other potential uses of the history of sociology, e.g. in teaching or in the construction of the discipline’s identity. Relying on historical epistemology, it discusses how two distinct, but interrelated movements of thought can be used to writing histories of our discipline that are informative to contemporary theorizing. The one, historization, consists in following the historical trajectories of epistemologies, concepts, theories, methodologies, methods, and techniques in order to demonstrate their variability as a function of their social and cultural embeddedness. Hence, current theorists would be equipped with a richer understanding of the prior life of the ideas they work with, with a better “working memory,” as Richard Swedberg once put it.

The second movement of thought, the epistemologization of the history, attempts to revisit the history of sociology in order to identify which factors informed earlier science, both its confirmed and its obsolete elements. This, in turn, should increase the level of self-reflexivity with which current theorists approach their task. While contemporary studies on the history of sociology focus on social factors of knowledge production, dissemination, and evaluation, I finally argue that one direction less intensely followed consists in seeking for psychological, or perhaps even psychoanalytical factors in a way proposed by one of the early luminaries of historical epistemology, French philosopher Gaston Bachelard.