An Essay on the Foundations of Comparative Historical Social Science

Focusing on the dynamic between sociology and history, this essay makes the case for a synthesis of history and the social sciences by which the pitfalls of both may be avoided and research more dynamically perceived.

ARENA Working Paper 22/2002 (html)

Lars Mjøset

The relationship between history and sociology has been the subject of heated controversies ever since sociology was established as a discipline. These debates continue, and over the last decades, historical sociology has been at the core of debates spanning the whole spectrum from specific questions regarding quantitative studies to complex discussions of highly philosophical matters. This essay gives a background to and tries to draw some conclusions with reference to these recent debates.

It is argued here that comparative historical sociology is more than a narrow branch of sociology, rather it offers a comprehensive alternative for macro-sociology and can be linked to a specific synthesis in sociology, namely that of interactionism. Comparative historical sociology can aid the disciplines it involves in specific ways: It can save history from drowning in monographs, it can help sociology avoid suffocation in the thin air of grand “social theory”, and it can help social science reflect on its predicament of always having to interpret the present.

Tags: sociology, history
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM