Article

Comparative Historical Sociology

Monica Prasad

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online July 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0009
Comparative Historical Sociology

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  • Sociology
  • Comparative and Historical Sociology
  • Economic Sociology
  • Gender and Sexuality
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  • Social Movements and Social Change
  • Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility
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Comparative historical sociology is the branch of sociology that analyzes society-wide transformations, such as social revolutions, the rise of capitalism and the nation-state, democratization, and the birth and transformation of welfare states. At the end of the 19th century all of sociology’s European founders turned to historical explanation to understand the changes that capitalism had brought to their societies, from Marx’s attempt to explain history as the working out of class struggle, to Weber’s investigations into the comparative development of economy and society, to Durkheim’s investigations into the historical development of religion, law, and the division of labor. These early historical arguments were eclipsed, however, by the behavioral revolution and the explosion of statistical tools and techniques of the mid-20th century, which re-founded the discipline as the study of large numbers of individual actors or units. Only when revolutions and social change became increasingly pressing political concerns in the 1960s and 1970s did a large number of scholars once again turn to comparative historical sociology as the form of sociological explanation most appropriate to analyzing changes that occur infrequently or over very long periods, and that affect a society as a whole unit. While the classics of the discipline focus on European history, contemporary scholars are extending the approach to the rest of the world. Current areas of great interest include the question of why China did not experience an industrial revolution in the 18th century, the role of the state in economic development, and the transition to capitalism in eastern Europe. Some think that the study of rare events requires different methods from those common in the rest of sociology, and accordingly a lively methodological discussion is underway in the field. Because there has been great interest in the state as the source of much social transformation, the subfield overlaps considerably with macro political sociology; but comparative historical scholars are also interested in processes of social and economic change beyond the realm of the political.

Article.  5513 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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