Theory and method in historical social science

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Instructor: Joseph M. Bryant Email:

Office: Department of Sociology, 725 Spadina, Rm. 346 Phone: 946-5901

Every social science—or better, every well-considered social study—requires an historical scope of conception and a full use of historical materials.

C. Wright Mills (1959)


Can the major constraining dichotomies and polarities that have skewed the history of the social sciences over the past two centuries—voluntarism/determinism, agency/structure, nominalism/realism, micro/macro, objectivism/subjectivism, nomothetic/idiographic, maximizing rationality/cultural specificity—be resolved and transcended through use of a contextual-sequential logic of explanation, as offered in historical sociology? In an effort to answer that question, we will examine the central ontological and epistemological issues and controversies raised by recent efforts to develop a fully historical social science, a fully sociological historiography.

We will open with a review of the celebrated Methodenstreite that shaped the formation of the social science disciplines in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—disputes that turned heavily on disagreements regarding the proper relationship between historical inquiry and sociological theorizing. The program of positivism—to model social science after the nomological natural sciences—gained institutional ascendancy, and history was driven to an “external” and largely “auxiliary” status within disciplines such as sociology and economics. Nomological-deductive modes of explanation, abetted by the probabilistic logic championed by statistics and sundry technical advances in quantitative methods, defined the grounds of proper theorizing. Hermeneutics, genealogy, and narrative—the analytical “logics” of historiography—were deemed preliminary to full scientific explanation, which sought to specify the determinant relations of social forces and variables “abstracted from” or independent of time and place considerations.

The past three decades has witnessed a resurgence of historically-oriented and informed social science. Inspired in the main by the pioneering legacies of Marx and Weber, this movement has been led by distinguished scholars such as Barrington Moore, Charles Tilly, Theda Skocpol, Immanuel Wallerstein, Perry Anderson, Fernand Braudel, E.P. Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm, Eric Wolf, Pierre Bourdieu, Marshall Sahlins, Antony Giddens, and Michael Mann. Directly challenging the traditional idiographic-nomothetic antinomy, and insisting upon the mutual and necessary interdependence of history and sociology, the work of these scholars is currently forcing a return to the contested and divisive issues of the earlier Methodenstreite, all of which were—and remain—keyed to the fundamental question of whether the social sciences are, or are not, inherently historical disciplines.

In critically assessing the merits and viability of the emerging transdisciplinary project of historical social science, this course will address the following thematic foci:

I. Philosophy of Science

i. the ontology of the social-historical

* time and place as constitutive mediums of social life, intrinsic to both meaningful agency and

processes of structuration

* the formation of minded selves, roles, institutions, and social orders as historical phenomena

* on causality and contexts

ii. the epistemic foundations of historiography: critical realism or skeptical, postmodern “constructivism”?

* the past-as-it-happened and past-as-imagined, as ideologically reconstructed, commemorated

* the “historiographical operation” (Barthes, De Certeau, Hayden White)

* “arduous confrontations” of evidence and theory (E.P. Thompson)

iii. levels of abstraction and concreteness in social science

* ideal types revisited - analytical vs. historical concepts

II. Historical Social Science as Theory

i. the logic of contextual-sequential analysis

* the via media between transhistorical generalizations and particularistic narrations: social phenomena to be explicated by tracing both their genesis and their intrinsic relations to other mediating structures and processes

* history as part of the present, owing to the rootedness of present structural and cultural arrangements in past practices (trajectories, turning-points, ramifying causal chains)

ii. concept-formation and historical-comparative generalization

* cases and the so-called “small N” problem

* excursus on the use of secondary sources

iii. theorizing agency, structure, and culture as temporal phenomena

* on time and place as culturally defined apperceptions that provide essential frames of meaning for social action (i.e, the sequentially-ordered and site specific nature of most forms of reflexive agency)

* on path-dependence: present arrangements—institutions, cultural forms—are the cumulative and selectively reproduced products of past social actions, which in turn provide the basis for future endeavours and aspirations

III. Methods in Historical Social Science

i. on historical evidence: remnants, records, residua

* typically clustered, catenated & so “narrative entailing”

* as objectifications of human intentionality, and thus characterized by “social authenticity” and “implicative density” (or multivalence)

ii. hermeneutics and the “construction” of narratives

* canons of interpretation, verstehen, and the hermeneutic circle

* colligation, emplotment, rhetoric

* on the integration of so-called “first-order” accounts (phenomenological or ideological representations by the agents themselves) and “second-order” synthesizing narratives that objectively situate and contextualize the subjective experiences of the actors

* from “chaotic chronicle” to the narrative logic of situated social action (historical sociology)

iii. reflexive protocols for enhanced objectivity

* source criticism

* the sociology of knowledge and “epistemic vigilance”


For background, you will find these two volumes quite helpful:

Theda Skocpol, ed., Vision and Method in Historical Sociology, Cambridge University Press, 1984.

T. McDonald, ed., The Historic Turn in the Human Sciences, University of Michigan Press, 1999.

& A photocopied package of assigned readings, addressing methodological and theoretical concerns, as well as exemplars of historical-sociological research.


One essay, due at the end of term (60 pts), based on your research interests or field;

One seminar presentation (20 pts) and one critical commentary (5 pts), both to have a peer evaluatation component, if students vote in favour of this option [that is, in addition to my appraisal, each seminar participant will also provide an assessment of the quality and value of each oral presentation; anonymity will be preserved, and i will summarize these reports for constructive feedback];

One short critical reflection piece (10 pts); and class participation (5 pts)

This course will follow a conventional graduate seminar format: students will be expected to complete the weekly readings and participate fully in class discussions. Dialogue and debate will thus constitute the regulative principles of the course. Your questions, opinions, and criticisms are necessary in promoting rounded and reflective discussion, and will be appreciated.


Week 1 Introduction: History and the Social Sciences

Jan. 11

Reading: J.M. Bryant & John Hall, “Towards Integration and Unity in the Human Sciences: The Project

of Historical Sociology,” Introduction to Historical Methods in the Social Sciences, Volume I.

Recommended: Andrew Abbott, “History and Sociology: The Lost Synthesis,” Social Science History, 1991, 15/2: 201-38, and related essays in his Time Matters, 2001. Terrence McDonald, “What We Talk about When We Talk about History: The Conversations of History and Sociology,” pp.91-118; and Craig Calhoun, “The Rise and Domestication of Historical Sociology,” pp.305-338, both in McDonald, ed., The Historic Turn in the Human Sciences, 1999. See also Wallerstein, et al., Open the Social Sciences, 1996.

*** A comprehensive collection of foundational texts is now available, in Historical Methods in the Social Sciences, IV volumes, edited by John A. Hall & Joseph M. Bryant, Sage Publications, 2005:

Volume I. Historical Social Science: Presuppositions and Prescriptions

Volume II. Foundations of Historical-Sociological Inquiry

Volume III. The Logic of Historical-Sociological Analysis

Volume IV. Social Worlds in Flux: Legacies and Transformations [ Call number: HM487 ]

Week 2 On Scientific Explanation: The Methodenstreit Revisited

Jan 18

Readings: Max Weber, “Critical Studies in the Logic of the Cultural Sciences,” chap. III, pp. 113-88 in M. Weber, The Methodology of the Social Sciences, 1949. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “The Crisis of The Understanding,” chapter 14, pp. 318-37, in The Essential Writings of Merleau-Ponty, 1969.

Supplemental: An excellent overview is provided by Peter Manicas, A History & Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 1987. A foundational collection is Frederick Suppe, ed., The Structure of Scientific Theories, 1977, covering the rise and fall of logical positivism. Classic contributions are: May Brodbeck, ed., Readings in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 1968; and Maurice Natanson, ed., Philosophy of the Social Sciences: A Reader, 1963 (with a strong phenomenological orientation). Quentin Skinner’s edited volume, The Return of Grand Theory in the Human Sciences, 1985, offers informative sketchs of Althusser, the Annales Historians, Derrida, Foucault, Gadamer, Habermas, Kuhn, Levi-Strauss, and Rawls. Pierre Bourdieu, J-C Chamboredon, and J-C Passeron, The Craft of Sociology: Epistemological Preliminaries, 1991, insightfully links philosophy to research practice; see also Bourdieu’s In Other Words: Essays Towards a Reflexive Sociology, 1990. From anthropology, Clifford Geertz, Available Light, 2000, offers a series of brilliant meditations on a number of interpretive disputes and challenges. Pertinent reflections by a historian are found in Geoff Eley, A Crooked Line: From Cultural History to the History of Society, 2005. For the ongoing crisis in economics, signaled by the “post-autistic economics” movement, see Edward Fullbrook. ed., A Guide to What’s Wrong With Economics, 2004. For a related uprising, see Kristen Monroe, ed., Perestroika! The Raucous Rebellion in Political Science, 2005. Dorothy Ross, The Origins of American Social Science, 1991, is an indispensable historical study; while the essays in George Steinmetz, ed., The Politics of Method in the Human Sciences, 2005, offer invaluable insights on the subject.

Week 3 On the Ontology of the Social-Historical:

Jan. 25 Nominalism, Social Realism, and Dialectical Totality

Readings: E. Gellner, “Holism versus Individualism in History and Sociology,” and J. Watkins, “Historical Explanation in the Social Sciences,” pp. 488-515 in Patrick Gardiner, ed., Theories of History, 1959. Theodore Adorno, “Sociology and Empirical Research,” pp. 68-86 in Adorno, et al., The Positivist Dispute in German Sociology, 1976. Peter Berger and Stanley Pullberg, “Reification and the Sociological Critique of Consciousness,” History and Theory, 1965, 4/2: 196-211.

Supplemental: C. Castoriadis, “The Social-Historical,” chap. 4 in The Imaginary Institution of Society, 1998. John Wilson, “Realist Philosophy as a Foundation for Marxian Social Theory,” Current Perspectives in Social Theory 1982 (3):243-63. M. Archer, Roy Bhaskar, et al., eds., Critical Realism: Essential Readings,1998. See also Jean-Paul Sartre’s short programmatic work, Search for a Method, 1963; more dauntingly, his Critique of Dialectial Reason, 1960. Raymond Aron, History and the Dialectic of Violence, 1973, offers a critical assessment. Synoptically lucid is Y.Yovel, “Existentialism and Historical Dialectic,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 1979, 39/4: 480-97. For background, Howard Tuttle, The Dawn of Historical Reason [on Dilthey, Heidegger, Ortega y Gasset], 1994. Wide-ranging is Mustafa Emirbayer, “Manifesto for a Relational Sociology,” American Journal of Sociology 1997, 103/2: 281-317. Also noteworthy: Fredric Jameson, “Marxism and Historicism,” New Literary History 1979, 11:41-73; and for a Wittgensteinian approach, Rom Harré, “Forward to Aristotle: the Case for a Hybrid Ontology,” Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 1997, 27 (2/3):173-91.

Week 4 Causality and Social Time

Feb. 1

Readings: Jean-Paul Sartre, “Temporality: Phenomenology of the Three Temporal Dimensions,” pp.83-105 in Being and Nothingness, 1956. Herbert Marcuse, “Contributions to a Phenomenology of Historical Materialism,” Telos 1969, 4: 3-34. R. Aminzade, “Historical Sociology and Time,” Sociological Methods & Research 1992, 20/4: 456-80. Raymond Martin, “Causes, Conditions, and Causal Importance,” History and Theory 1982, 21/1: 53-74. Michael Scriven, “Causes, Connections and Conditions in History,” pp.238-64 in W.Dray, ed., Philosophical Analysis and History, 1966.

Supplemental: Fernand Braudel, “History and the Social Sciences: The Longue Durée,” pp. 25-54 in his On History, 1980. A. Abbott, “On the Concept of Turning Point,” Comparative Social Research 1997 (16): 85-105. G. H. Mead, “History and the Experimental Method” and “Time,” chaps. 12 & 13 (pp.319-41) in On Social Psychology (Selected Papers), 1964. G. Reisch, “Chaos, History, and Narrative,” and D. McCloskey, “History, Differential Equations, and the Problem of Narration,” both in History and Theory 1991, 30/1: 1-36. A. Abbott, “Temporality and Process in Social Life” chapter 7, pp.209-39 in his Time Matters, 2001. I. Wallerstein, “The TimeSpace of World-Systems Analysis,” Historical Geography, 1993, XXIII, 1/2: 5-22. L. Isaac, “Reflections on Time, Causality, and Narrative in Contemporary Historical Sociology,” Historical Methods 1997, 30/1: 4-12. And also the Symposium: “Rom Harré on Social Structure and Social Change,” European Journal of Social Theory, 2002, 5/1: 111-48, with comments by Harré, Carter, and Strydom. Interesting but difficult is Ernst Bloch’s “Nonsynchronism and the Obligation to Its Dialectics,” translated English version in New German Critique 1977, 11: 22-38. Bender & Wellbery, eds., Chronotypes: The Construction of Time, 1991, is an instructive collection, theoretical and substantive.

Week 5 What If? Counterfactual History and the Agency-Structure Dialectic

Feb. 8

Readings: Randall Collins, “The Uses of Counter-Factual History,” Amsterdams Sociologisch Tijdschrift 2004, 31/3: 275-95. Selections from John Merriman, ed., For Want of a Horse: Choice & Chance in History, 1982; or from J.C. Squire, ed., If It Had Happened Otherwise [D210s7], 1972 (especially the paper by A.J.P.Taylor). William Sewell, Jr., “Theory of Action, Dialectic, and History: Comment on Coleman,” American Journal of Sociology 1988, 93/1: 166-172; and James Coleman, “Actors and Actions in Social History and Social Theory: Reply to Sewell,” American Journal of Sociology 1988, 93/1: 172-5.

Supplemental: W.H. Sewell, Jr., “A Theory of Structure: Duality, Agency, and Transformation,” American Journal of Sociology 1992, 98/1: 1-29. W. Outhwaite, “Agency and Structure,” and Margaret Archer, “Human Agency and Social Structure,” chapters 6 & 7 in Clark, Modgil & Modgil, eds., Anthony Giddens: Consensus and Controversy, 1990. M. Archer, “Morphogenesis versus structuration: on combining structure and action,” British Journal of Sociology 1982, 33/4: 455-83. Perry Anderson, “Structure and Subject,” chap. 2 in his In the Tracks of Historical Materialism, 1983, is luminious. A critical survey and synthesis of major European reflections is Axel Honneth and Hans Joas, Social Action and Human Nature, 1988. Nicholas Thomas, Out of Time: History and Evolution in Anthropological Discourse, 1989, is incisive on the hazards of ahistorical analyses in ethnography. Likewise for economics, Paul David, “Why Are Institutions the ‘Carriers of History’? Path Dependence and the Evolution of Conventions, Organizations and Institutions,” Structural Change and Economic Dynamics 1994, 5/2: 205-20. The most instructive explorations to date of the structure-event dialectic are offered by Marshall Sahlins, most notably “Structure and History,” chap. 5 in his Islands of History, 1985, and “The Return of the Event, Again,” chap. XI in his Culture in Practice, 2000. His most recent work, Apologies to Thucydides: Understanding History as Culture and Vice Versa, 2004, offers illuminating case studies on the theme. Also relevant: Paul Secord, “Subjects versus Persons in Social Psychological Research,” chap. 11 in Harré and his Critics, edited by Roy Bhaskar, 1990; and Sherry Ortner, “Subjectivity and Cultural Critique,” Anthropological Theory 2005, 5/1: 31-52.

Week 6 Laws that “Cover” or Narratives that “Bind”?

Feb. 15

Reading: A. Abbott, “Transcending General Linear Reality,” Sociological Theory, Fall 1988, 6: 169-86. Alan Donagan, “The Popper-Hempel Theory Reconsidered,” chapter 5, pp.127-59, in William Dray, ed., Philosophical Analysis and History, 1966. David Carr, “Narrative and the Real World: An Argument for Continuity,” History and Theory, 1986, 25/2: 117-31. William Sewell, Jr., “Geertz, Cultural Systems, and History: From Synchrony to Transformation,” Representations 59, Summer 1997: 35-55. Gérard Genette, “Fictional Narrative, Factual Narrative,” Poetics Today 1990, 11/4: 755-74.

Supplemental: “Symposium on Prediction in the Social Sciences,” American Journal of Sociology, May 1995, 100/6: 1520-1625 (Hechter, Collins, Tilly, Kiser, Portes). A. Abbott, “From Causes to Events,” Sociological Methods & Research, May 1992, 20/4: 428-55. Peter Hall, “Aligning Ontology and Methodology in Comparative Research,” pp.373-404 in Mahoney & Rueschemeyer, eds., Comparative Historical Analysis in the Social Sciences, 2003. Two classic meditations: Ortega y Gasset, “History as a System,” pp. 283-322, in Klibansky and Paton, Philosophy and History: The Ernst Cassirer Festschrift, 1963, and Isaiah Berlin, “The Concept of Scientific History,” History and Theory 1960, 1/1: 1-31. The foundational statement for the covering-law position is Carl Hempel, “Explanation in Science and History,” reprinted as chapter 4, pp.95-126, in Dray, Philosophical Analysis and History, 1966. Informative and revealing is the recent Sica-Mahoney debate: James Mahoney, “Revisiting General Theory in Historical Sociology,” Social Forces 2004, 83/2: 459-89, and Alan Sica, “Why ‘Unobservables’ Cannot Save General Theory,” pp.491-501, which continues online with Mahoney, “Reply to Sica: Epistemological and Ontological Debates in Historical Sociology,” and Sica, “Reply to Mahoney’s Rebuttal: Hunting the Grail with Realist Enthusiasm.” Another debate treatment is Philip Gorski, “The Poverty of Deductivism: A Constructive Realist Model of Sociological Explanation,” and Jack Goldstone’s comments, “Response: Reasoning About History, Sociologically ...,” with Gorski’s short reply, “The Varieties of Deductivism,” all in Sociological Methodology, 2004. Still valuable is Blumer’s classic piece, “Sociological Analysis and the ‘Variable’,” American Sociological Review 1956 21/6: 683-90.

Week 7 **** Reading Week **** Feb. 19-23

Week 8 History and Historiography I.

Mar. 1 On Historical Evidence and the Logic of Hermeneutics

Readings: R. Aron, “Evidence and Inference in History,” pp. 19-47 in D. Lerner, ed., Evidence and Inference, 1959. Marc Bloch, The Historian’s Craft, 1953, especially chapter III: “Historical Criticism”. G.R. Elton, The Practice of History, 1967, chapter II: “Research,” chapter III: “Writing”. Peter Gay, Style in History, 1974, Conclusion, pp.183-217. On the necessity and pitfalls of semiotical analysis, see Raphael Samuel, “Reading the Signs,” and “Reading the Signs II: Fact-grubbers and Mind-readers,” History Workshop Journal, 1991 (32): 88-109, 1992 (33): 220-51.

Supplemental: David Hackett. Fischer, Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought, 1970. A practical guide on Ethnohistory, R. Barber and F. Berdan, The Emperor’s Mirror: Understanding Culture through Primary Sources, 1998. John and Jean Comaroff, Ethnography and the Historical Imagination, 1992, brilliantly puts theory to practice. Nicholas Dirks, “Annals of the Archive: Ethnographic Notes on the Sources of History,” pp. 47-65 in Brian Keith Axel, ed., From the Margins: Historical Anthropology and Its Future, 2002. Peter Laslestt, “The Wrong Way Through the Telescope: A Note on Literary Evidence in Sociology and in Historical Sociology,” British Journal of Sociology 1976, 27/3: 319-42. Paul Ricoeur’s magnum opus, Memory, History, Forgetting, 2004, is a comprehensive exploration; for a synopsis, see his “History and Hermeneutics,” Journal of Philosophy 1976, 73/19 (4): 683-95. Also valuable: Agnes Heller, “From Hermeneutics in Social Science Toward a Hermeneutics of Social Science,” Theory and Society 1989, 18: 291-322; and Frederick Olafson, “Hermeneutics: Analytical and Dialectical,” History and Theory 1986, 25/4: 28-42. Karl-Otto Apel’s Analytical Philosophy of Language and the ‘Geisteswissenschaften’, 1967, offers an insightful critical assessment of positivistic reasoning.

Week 9 History and Historiography II.

Mar. 8 On Historical Evidence and the Logic of Hermeneutics

Readings: V. K. Dibble, “Four Types of Inference from Documents to Events,” History and Theory 1963, 3/2: 203-21. Jennifer Platt, “Evidence and Proof in Documentary Research, I & II,” Sociological Review 1981, 29/1: 31-66. Alison Wylie, “Archaeological Cables and Tacking,” Philosophy of the Social Sciences 1989, 19/1: 1-18. Ann Laura Stoler, “Colonial Archives and the Arts of Governance” Archival Science 2002, 2: 87-109.

Supplemental: G.S. Couse, “Collingwood’s Detective Image of the Historian and the Study of Hadrian’s Wall,” History and Theory 1990, Beiheft 29: Reassessing Collingwood, pp.57-77. Joan Ramon Resina, “Historical Discourse and the Propaganda Film,” New Literary History, 1998, 29/1: 67-84. On the pictorial arts, Svetlana Alpers, The Art of Describing, 1983, is a stimulating case study. Interesting on oral history is Luise White, “Telling More: Lies, Secrets, and History,” History and Theory 2000, 39/4: 11-22. On museums, Susan Crane, “Memory, Distortion, and History in the Museum,” History and Theory 1997, 36/4: 44-63. More generally, Wulf Kansteiner, “Finding Meaning in Memory: A Methodological Critique of Collective Memory Studies,” History and Theory 2002, 41/2: 179-97.

Week 10 Emplotment, Rhetoric, & the “Historiographical Operation”:

Mar. 15 Assessing the Postmodernist Challenge

Readings: Roland Barthes, “The discourse of history,” Comparative Criticism 1981, vol. 3: 7-20. Hayden White, “The Question of Narrative in Contemporary Historical Theory,” History and Theory 1984, 23/1: 1-33. Michel de Certeau, The Writing of History, chapter 2, 1988. E.P Thompson, “The Poverty of Theory or an Orrery of Errors,” pp.193-242 (sections i - vii), in his The Poverty of Theory & Other Essays, 1978. Raymond Martin, “Progress in Historical Studies,” History and Theory 1998, 37/1: 14-39.

Supplemental: Hayden White, “Historical Emplotment and the Problem of Truth”; Perry Anderson, “On Emplotment: Two Kinds of Ruin”; and Martin Jay, “Of Plots, Witnesses, and Judgments,” chapters 2, 3, and 6 in Saul Friedlander, ed., Probing the Limits of Representation, 1992. See also the debate issues on “History and Post-Modernism,” in Past and Present 1991, No. 131 (L. Stone), No. 133 (P. Joyce & C. Kelly), and 1992, No. 135 (Stone & Gabrielle Spiegel). Insightful is Nancy Partner, “Making Up Lost Time: Writing on the Writing of History,” Speculum 1986, 61/1: 90-117.

Week 11 Reflexivity and the Quest for Objectivity:

Mar. 22 On Source Criticism and the Sociology of Knowledge

Readings: Karl Mannheim, chapter V: “The Sociology of Knowledge,” pp.264-311, in his Ideology and Utopia, 1936. Joseph M. Bryant, “On Sources and Narratives in Historical Social Science,” British Journal of Sociology 2000, 51/3: 489-523.

Supplemental: Thomas Haskell, “Objectivity is not Neutrality,” History and Theory 1990, 29/2: 129-57. L. Wacquant, “Toward a Reflexive Sociology: A Workshop with Pierre Bourdieu,” Sociological Theory 1989, 7/1: 26-63. C. Lorenz, “Can Histories Be True? Narrativism, Positivism, and the Metaphorical Turn,” History and Theory 1998, 37/3: 309-29. Instructive on the possibility of a fallible yet correctible objectivity is Kerry Whiteside, “Perspectivism and Historical Objectivity: Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Covert Debate with Raymond Aron,” History and Theory 1986, 25/2: 132-51. The distinguished historian Carlo Ginzburg offers much valuable instruction in his Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method, 1989. Thomas Nagel, The View From Nowhere,1986, is a brilliant meditation. On Post-Colonial epistemological reflections, see “Comments on Orientalism. Two Reviews,” by Amal Rassam and Ross Chambers, Comparative Studies in Society and History 1980, 22/4: 505-12. For an empirical exemplar from the dawn of the colonial period, see James O’Toole, “Cortes’s Notary: The Symbolic Power of Records,” Archival Science 2002, 2: 45-61. Talal Asad, ed., Anthropology & the Colonial Encounter, 1973, is a classic early collection on the theme.

Week 12 Historical Sociology: Advocacy and Critique

Mar. 29

Readings: J. Goldthorpe, “The Uses of History in Sociology,” British Journal of Sociology 1991, 42/2: 211-30; “The Uses of History in Sociology: A Debate,” British Journal of Sociology 1994, 45/1: 1-77, papers by Bryant, Hart, Mouzelis, and Mann, with a reply by Goldthorpe.

Supplemental: J. Goldthorpe, “Current Issues in Comparative Macrosociology,” Comparative Social Research 1997 (16):1-26; see especially the rejoinders by D. Rueschemeyer & J. Stephens, “Comparing Historical Sequences,” pp.55-72, and J.Goldstone, “Methodological Issues in Comparative Macrosociology,” pp.107-20, and Goldthorpe’s reply, pp.121-32. S.Lieberson, “Small N’s and big conclusions,” and Howard Becker, “Cases, causes, conjunctures, stories, and imagery,” chapters 4 and 9, in C. Ragin & H. Becker, eds., What is a Case?, 1992. William Sewell Jr., Logics of History, 2005, offers a valuable collection of his many contributions on the necessary interplay of sociological and historical modes of analysis.

Week 13 Formalization, Quantification, and Historical Sociology

Apr. 5

Readings: L. Griffin, “Narrative, Event-Structure Analysis, and Causal Interpretation in Historical Sociology,” American Journal of Sociology 1993, 98/5: 1094-1133. Roberto Franzosi, “A Sociologist Meets History: Critical Reflections upon Practice,” Journal of Historical Sociology 1996, 9/3: 354-92. R.Franzosi and J.Mohr, “New Directions in Formalization and Historical Analysis,” Theory and Society 1997, 26: 133-60.

Supplemental: J. Hall, “Temporality, Social Action, and the Problem of Quantification in Historical Analysis,” Historical Methods 1984, 17/4: 206-18. Larry Griffin and Marcel van der Linden (eds.) New Methods for Social History, 1999, offers a cutting-edge collection (on which see the review by Chris Lorenz). Challenging technically but critically important are the essays in Causality in Crisis? Statistical Methods and the Search for Causal Knowledge in the Social Sciences, edited by Vaugh McKim and Stephen Turner, 1997. See also Andrew Sayer, “Abstraction: A Realist Interpretation,” Radical Philosophy 1981, Summer, pp.6-15. On the academic politics of “method choice,” see the illuminating article by John H. Summers, “Perpetual Revelations: C.Wright Mills and Paul Lazarsfeld,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences 2006, 608: 25-40.


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