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Sociology started to go astray when it lost many of its original roots.

These include the Scottish philosophers, with their emphasis on spontaneous order and social evolution; (however incomplete and sometimes misguided), the Herbert Spencer/William Graham Sumner tradition with its critical view of political interference with social processes, and insight into "bourgeois virtues" (Sumner's middle class, hardworking and frugal "forgotten man"); and the Weberian conception of methodological subjectivism and "meaningful action" in the context of understanding social processes, and institutions and their development.

Too much of sociology was "captured" or "highjacked" by Marxian "class analysis," and notions of class conflict; and Ferdinand Tonnie's distinction between "community" and "society," with the presumption that the collective identity and associations of "community" are inherently superior to the individualistic "contract" and market-oriented relationships of "society."

This all got "up-dated" with a pursuit of a "positivist" sociology, and then revisions of Marxism in the permutations of gender and racial conflict theories of society and human relationships.

People like Peter Berger or Jane Jacobs were the "outliers" of the sociology profession, just as Peter Bauer played that outlier role in development economics for so many decades.

I say this as someone who has great respect for and sees a lot of value in the development of and a use for a real "science of society" that is not twisted by collectivist clap-trap and pseudo-scientific mythologies.

Richard Ebeling

Just goes to show that the outliers are often just pioneers and closer to the truth than the mainstream.

Mises gave up on sociology round about 1930. The trick is to rediscover the synergy between the legacy of Weber and the Austrians, as interpreted by Talcott Parsons (1937) and others.

Rafe, on your mentioning of "the synergy between the legacy of Weber and the Austrians"...

Boettke & Storr (2002)

Rafe mentioned Talcott Parsons, who I also highly recommend.

I would add that an additional figure on the themes and histories of leading sociologists of the 19th and early 20th century is Raymond Aron. His 1930s' book on "German Sociology" is very useful, as is his two-volume, "Main Currents in Sociological Thought."

And it would be wrong not to mention his classic work from the mid-1950s, "The Opium of the Intellectuals." And to understand a part of the sociology and ideology of 20th century collectivism, Aron's 1955 work, "The Century of Total War."

Richard Ebeling

So what we all need now is a reading list of people we need to read to re-establish sociology on stronger grounds. (If you could create your wish-list for a dream-sociology.)

One of the most under-rated and forgatten classical sociologist is Gabriel Tarde, whose conception of sociologist, often considered psychologist, is however very close to the Verstehen sociology that emmerged in Germany. He wrote extensively on many topic, from culture to politics to economics, and in late 19th century France he was the most proeminent rival of Durkheim, who shares along with Comte and Marx much of the responsability for the very holistic and anti-methodologically individualistic orientation, later reinforced by functionalism, of the median sociologist.

Thanks Rizqi, there is also a 1998 paper by Pete on the Weber-Austrian connection where he suggested that Talcott Parsons did not do a good job of passing on the flame from Weber. I have commented on that paper here.

I agree with Peter that Parsons muddied the waters but that was after his first book, The Structure of Social Action (1937) which gave a good feed on Weber, including subjectivism and methodological indiviudualism. Then Parsons took a bad turn into general systems theory (was it the air or water of Harvard?) and he had little to offer after that time. He also failed to make any reference to von Mises or any other Austrian economist in his published work. The result was that after a promising start he became an obscurantist.

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