The History of Sociology in Britain

A. H. Halsey

in British Sociology Seen from Without and Within

Published by British Academy

Published in print November 2005 | ISBN: 9780197263426
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734298 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Occasional Papers

The History of Sociology in Britain

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This chapter discusses the battle between literature and science for domination of sociology, a topic that has rather been neglected as a theme in the history of sociology in Britain if also perhaps overheated nowadays in exchanges over relativism between the denizens of ‘cultural studies’ and the proponents of a ‘science of society’. The chapter argues that, traditionally, the social territory belonged to literature and philosophy. A challenge was then raised by science especially in the nineteenth century. Then, especially in the twentieth century, social science developed so as to turn a binary contrast into a triangular one. Sociology had three sources in Western thought: one literary (political philosophy), one quasi-scientific (the philosophy of history), and one scientific (biology). It is no accident that both sociology and social policy were placed first at the London School of Economics, the Fabian institution invented and fostered by Sidney and Beatrice Webb in 1895.

Keywords: London School of Economics; sociology; history; political philosophy; biology; social policy; literature; science; Britain; social science

Chapter.  3445 words. 

Subjects: Social Research and Statistics

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