British Social Theory
Recovering Lost Traditions before 1950
- John Scott - Visiting Professor, University of Essex, UK, University of Exeter, UK, The University of Copenhagen, Denmark
An enlightening book, not only for students in the social sciences, but also for scholars interested in social epistemology and the history of (sociological) ideas. It reconfirms there were some interesting theorists in the UK in the early twentieth century. Even non-sociologists will learn from this reading, written in clear language and without jargon.
It is high time that widely-held myths about the historical backwardness of British sociology were exploded. Social Theory in Britain represents a fundamental challenge to the study of national traditions in social theory. Beginning with the central problem of unintended consequences in the Scottish enlightenment, John Scott, the leading authority on the history of British social theory, provides an eminently readable account of a largely forgotten and misrecognised sociological tradition, without succumbing to the charismatic blinkers of nationalist sociology. The main themes of early British sociology detected by Scott focus critically on social structure, cultural idealism, developmental processes, and economic sociology. By the twentieth century ambitious sociological syntheses were being produced by three major social theorists, Patrick Geddes, Robert MacIver and Leonard Hobhouse, which arguably stand comparison with better known social theories being produced elsewhere in Europe and the US.
British social theory has been an important influence in the past and has an important role to play in renewed thinking today - not only in Britain, but globally.
In this important book Scott provides us with a story long forgotten and therefore assumed to be non-existent: the story of British Social Theory in the 19th and early 20th Century. Skillfully drawing across a variety of writers, some seeing themselves as sociologists, others a mix of theorists from other disciplines, political actors and amateurs, Scott demonstrates the diversity of social theory in Britain. A significant contribution and a must-read for anyone interested in the history of sociology and social theory in Britain this book provides us with rich theoretical resources to revisit and disproves the claim that Britain lacked any significant social theorists in this period.
A magisterial discussion of key lines of thought in the submerged history of classical sociology in Britain pre-1950. It examines key questions concerning what social theory in British sociology was, who did it and the ideas produced and is essential reading in re-evaluating the history of British sociology. It convincingly shows any claim it was theory-bereft before US sociology came on the scene is seriously mistaken.
John Scott has done a great service by providing this reconstruction of the long and distinguished history of British social theory, a tradition which the rest of the world reacted to and incorporated. Much of this history of social theory has been hidden in and obscured by the specialist literature on these thinkers—Scott brings them to light in an accessible form.
John Scott destroys the stereotype that British social thinkers lacked the lasting significance of the great Continental and American sociologists. A powerful and plausible re-examination of the British contribution to the Western sociological tradition.
Sample Materials & Chapters
Was There a Failure of British Social Theory?