Global Ambition of Early Sociology

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Since the Cartesian Revolution and since gaining autonomy, all social sciences have sought to approximate the ideal of natural sciences, sometimes even to become natural sciences. The founder of sociology, a discipline that once claimed to act as the keystone amid the other humanities and social sciences, Auguste Comte, bestowed upon sociology – among other things – two directives:

  • to be exact in the sense of natural sciences, that is, to be a universalist science capable of discovering generally applicable laws, describe them, and express them, if possible, in a mathematical form, and
  • to be a global science in two senses: in the sense of substitution, that is absorption of other sciences, but mainly in the sense of its thematic orientation: sociology was to deal with humanity (l’humanité) not particular societies. Paradoxically enough, sociology has returned to this idea conceived by Comte – that sociology was to be science of universalist titles and with a global or globalised subject –more than 150 years later in connection to globalisation processes. Until then, ‘humanity’ particularised itself, disintegrating into national states, and sociology evolved practically purely in their context.