Defining Disciplinary Identity: The Historiography of U.S. Sociology

Alan Sica

in Sociology in America

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2007 | ISBN: 9780226090948
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226090962 | DOI:
Defining Disciplinary Identity: The Historiography of U.S. Sociology

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This chapter surveys the key works of sociology's early historiography with an eye toward delineating the principal scholarly and ideological shifts that inhabit this special realm of sociological inquiry. The changes that have engulfed this scholarly subfield—beginning with the earliest formulations from the 1890s and culminating in the latest entry in the genre, the pertinent chapter of the Cambridge History of Science: The Modern Social Sciences—are hard to miss. Somewhat surprisingly given the robust rhetoric of sociology's first fifty years or so, the peculiar “reflexivity” that Alvin Gouldner during the 1960s urged his colleagues to adopt so that their self-perceptions might be sharpened has now swamped more traditional motives of historical writing and has itself become orthodoxy. The ultimate meaning and consequences of this epistemological shift toward relentless self-critique are not entirely clear as we head into a new century of sociology's existence—one which seems eons removed from the giddy founding days of Ward, Giddings, Sumner, and Small, when the value of sociology seemed to them self-evident and indisputably grand.

Keywords: U.S. Sociology; history; self-critique; sociological inquiry; historiography

Chapter.  8436 words. 

Subjects: Comparative and Historical Sociology

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