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Discourse and Knowledge: The Making of Enlightenment Sociology

Volume: 1
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 1
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Discourse and Knowledge
    Book Description:

    By closely analysing the contributions of such theorists as More, Hobbes, Vico, Montesquieu, Ferguson and Millar to the emergence of sociology in its original form, Piet Strydom follows the discursive construction of sociology in the context of the society-wide early modern practical discourse about violence and rights. Parallels with the nineteenth- and twentieth-century discourse on poverty and justice and the contemporary discourse of risk and responsibility allow the author to reflect not only on the generation of knowledge through discourse but also on the role that sociology itself plays in this process.

    eISBN: 978-1-84631-296-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Piet Strydom
  5. CHAPTER 1 Introduction: Discourse and Sociology
    (pp. 1-26)

    As the title intimates, this book is in principle concerned with the role of discourse in the generation, utilisation and development of knowledge. Written as it is by an author professionally employed as a sociologist, this relationship will be investigated more specifically with reference to the process through which sociology arose, became established and is continuously being maintained, revised and developed. Despite this emphasis, however, knowledge is confined here neither to scientific knowledge created by paid professionals, such as myself, nor more generally to the systematised and formalised knowledge of academia. Rather it is broadly understood as the tools or...

  6. Part I: Theory of Discourse and Discourse Analysis
    • Introduction: From Presentism and Historicism to Discourse
      (pp. 29-33)

      This part is devoted to a theoretical and methodological preparation for the discourse analysis of the construction of sociology carried out in the second part of this study. After introductory remarks aimed at clarifying the rationale for this approach by reference to the contemporary debate about the history of sociology, some of the most central theoretical and methodological considerations of the proposed discourse approach are presented.

      The basic assumption here is that the construction of sociology takes place within the context of the discourse of modernity. It is thus a matter of discursive construction. The discourse of modernity opened up...

    • CHAPTER 2 Theory of Discourse
      (pp. 34-52)

      The theory of discourse became a possibility as a result of the so-called ‘linguistic’ (Rorty 1967) or ‘pragmatic turn’ (Apel 1963, 10; Böhler et al. 1986) in twentieth-century philosophy and the philosophy of the sciences which also affected the human and social sciences.¹ This change took hold of the major French, German and Anglo-American traditions on the basis of the contributions of Saussure, of Hamann, Von Humboldt and Dilthey, and of Peirce respectively. In its initial phase, it was most decisively carried out by Claude Lévi-Strauss in France, Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer in Germany, Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein...

    • CHAPTER 3 Sociological Theory of Discourse
      (pp. 53-67)

      The German sociologist Richard Münch has undertaken to undo the category mistake – as Schnädelbach calls it – that Habermas commits by reducing all discourse possibilities to validity discourse, and thus to widen the range of types of discourse. His assumption, which is in line with Schnädelbach’s analysis, is that discourse needs to be located within the context of society. As a neo-Parsonian venture, Münch’s (1984, 117–19) proposal is based on the fourfold LIGA-or AGIL-scheme.¹ First, rational discourse, in the sense of Habermas’ pure type of theoretical and practical discourse about validity, is regarded as a subsystem of society, the rationalised...

    • CHAPTER 4 Discourse of Modernity
      (pp. 68-76)

      In 1984, in one of the last courses he offered at the Collège de France, Foucault (1987a, 38)¹ presented Kant as the one who opened the discourse of modernity. Kant was the first to focus on modernity in its own right, free from its usual contrast with the Ancients, and to conceive of the significance of his own work as a reflection on and analysis of the present. In the lecture course he held at the University of Frankfurt in 1983–84, Habermas (1987b, 43)² by contrast submitted that the discourse of modernity was opened by Hegel. The modern age,...

    • CHAPTER 5 Sociological Discourse Analysis
      (pp. 77-90)

      The outline of the sociological theory of discourse developed in the preceding two chapters has the purpose of preparing for the discourse analysis of the construction of sociology within the context of the discourse of modernity to be carried out in Part II of the book. The theoretical account given thus far already contains some methodologically relevant considerations, but before embarking on the proposed analysis it is necessary to elaborate independently on the methodology of discourse analysis adopted here. To do so in an intelligible way, it is necessary first to place this approach within the broader context of contemporary...

  7. Part II: Discourse of Modernity and the Construction of Sociology
    • Introduction: Crisis Discourse and Sociology
      (pp. 93-95)

      The aim of Part II is to develop, at least in a first outline, an analysis of the construction of sociology within the context of the discourse of modernity.

      The discourse of modernity emerged in the sixteenth century against the background of the breakdown of the medieval feudal order and the religious-metaphysical worldview. It was a response to the failure of the understanding of reality taken for granted until then to provide a shared stock of cultural and social assumptions on the basis of which people could orient themselves and justify their activities. The discourse addressed the general problem of...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Early Modern Problem of Violence
      (pp. 96-120)

      Whether one investigates primary sources, intellectual products or works of art from the early modern period, or whether one reads secondary materials about it, the most striking feature is the perception of violence by the early moderns as the predominant problem of the time. Although violence can be assumed historically to have been ubiquitous, it had not always been perceived as a problem. Under the conditions of the warrior society of the feudal period, violence had not been made and, in fact, could not have been made into the widely recognised problem it became in the early modern period. This...

    • CHAPTER 7 The Rights Discourse
      (pp. 121-181)

      The most immediate background of the cultural malaise of the early modern period in the context of which violence first became a problem was provided by the Reformation and Counter-Reformation as they broke in upon and disrupted the Renaissance. This is what makes the so-called ‘crisis of the Renaissance’ (Hauser 1979, 6) so central to any account of this period. But other correlative events, forces and ideas deriving from economic and political developments also offered a challenge to the ability of the already bewildered early moderns to comprehend and assimilate what is new, strange and disconcerting. The dissolution of Italian...

    • CHAPTER 8 Contributions to Enlightenment Sociology
      (pp. 182-232)

      It is within the compass of the field opened up by the rights discourse that sociology was originally defined and given an existence. This context was not something given or static but a dynamic and changing one in that it was structured by the role played by the discourse in the overcoming of insecurity by establishing certainty anew. Centred around the unfolding process of the collective identification, definition and solution of a major collective issue of early modern times, it embraced not only the unsettling experience and perception of the problem of violence but also the establishment of the rights-based...

    • CHAPTER 9 Discursive Construction of Enlightenment Sociology
      (pp. 233-256)

      In the previous chapter, an analysis was conducted of a selection of authors who contributed more or less directly and significantly to the construction of sociology within the context of the rights discourse – More, Hobbes, Vico, Montesquieu, Ferguson and Millar. Their achievements can be seen in the respective constructive contributions they made to the semantics of sociology in relation to the practical discourse and hence more general socio-political semantics of the early modern period. The latter, which took form in dependence on such events as the Reformation, the Dutch Revolt, the English Civil War, the American War of Independence and...

    • CHAPTER 10 Crisis and Critique: The Relation between Social and Political Theory
      (pp. 257-266)

      In the foregoing, it was argued that the rights discourse actually can and indeed should be regarded as a crisis discourse. It was not merely devoted to the collective consideration of the typically modern problem of the creation of society and of the mutual compatibility, reconciliation and consolidation of the different dimensions of society, as one would have expected given that it is an instance of the discourse of modernity. Instead it turned out to be a discourse about a problem that not only assumed crisis proportions but also called forth a solution that perpetuated the crisis. The birth of...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 267-302)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 303-329)
  10. Index of Names
    (pp. 330-334)
  11. Subject Index
    (pp. 335-344)