In 1967, Robert Merton both reaffirmed his distinction between the “history” and “systematics” of sociological theory and lamented the failure of his colleagues to observe it. Since then, however, the influence of what Merton called the “new history of science” (e.g. Thomas Kuhn) has been felt in the historiography of anthropology ( e. g. George W. Stocking, Jr.), political theory (e. Quentin Skinner), and, more recently, in sociology. It is thus possible to speak optimistically of a “new history of sociology” that is, in Merton’s phrase, “authentically historical.” A summary of this literature is presented. Since the value of this new history for sociology itself is avowedly different from that of its “systematic” counterpart, the alternative functions of “authentic histories” of sociology are discussed in the conclusion.

Keyword(s): historical sociology

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  • Article Type: Review Article
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