The colonial origins of modern social thought : French sociology and the overseas empire /

Steinmetz, George, 1957-

The colonial origins of modern social thought : French sociology and the overseas empire / George Steinmetz. - pages cm. - Princeton modern knowledge .

Includes bibliographical references and index.

"This book is a history of the field of sociology as it existed from the interwar, wartime, and postwar periods in France and its Empire. This does not refer just to sociologists who did some work in the colonies, or occasionally thought about them in their metropolitan work, but a specific field which was constituted to understand and then govern these colonies. The author argues that the re-founding of French sociology during and after World War II - which spawned the likes of Raymond Aron, Jacques Berque, Georges Balandier, and Pierre Bourdieu - occurred within the context of the re-founding of the French empire. Though there was been much discussion of "decolonizing" sociology in the postwar period, the deep history of sociology's connection to French colonialism and empire has been ignored when, the author argues, it is central. The main driver of the expansion of sociology in this period was colonial developmentalism. Sociologists became favored partners of colonial governments, applying their expertise to an array of "social problems," such as de-tribalization, poverty, labor migration, rapid urbanization and the growth of shantytowns, and the decay of traditional families and religious beliefs, and working on "modernizing" solutions. Many sociologists whose careers began in the overseas colonies formulated concepts and theories that quickly entered metropolitan (and then global) sociology, and their origins were forgotten. Steinmetz examines the ways in colonial sociologists differed from the rest of the discipline -in many ways they represented its most dynamic cutting edge-and how their locations may have affected their intellectual agendas and scholarship. He explores the ways in which these sociologists networked and tracks their major intellectual innovations and influence as a group. He also explores the marginalization faced by both sociologists working in the colonies and those born there, while showing the ways in which they were able to overcome them. The specific challenges of colonial sociology-including some very strongly anticolonial colonial sociologists-shaped sociological theory in ways that are still dominant. The book amounts to a historical sociology of French academia all told-with an emphasis on sociology and other human sciences-as well as a collective biography of many of the major figures, many who are continually read and cited to this day"-- "A new history of French social thought that connects postwar sociology to colonialism and empireIn this provocative and original retelling of the history of French social thought, George Steinmetz places the history and development of modern French sociology in the context of the French empire after World War II. Connecting the rise of all the social sciences with efforts by France and other imperial powers to consolidate control over their crisis-ridden colonies, Steinmetz argues that colonial research represented a crucial core of the renascent academic discipline of sociology, especially between the late 1930s and the 1960s. Sociologists, who became favored partners of colonial governments, were asked to apply their expertise to such "social problems" as detribalization, urbanization, poverty, and labor migration. This colonial orientation permeated all the major subfields of sociological research, Steinmetz contends, and is at the center of the work of four influential scholars: Raymond Aron, Jacques Berque, Georges Balandier, and Pierre Bourdieu.In retelling this history, Steinmetz develops and deploys a new methodological approach that combines attention to broadly contextual factors, dynamics within the intellectual development of the social sciences and sociology in particular, and close readings of sociological texts. He moves gradually toward the postwar sociologists of colonialism and their writings, beginning with the most macroscopic contexts, which included the postwar "reoccupation" of the French empire and the turn to developmentalist policies and the resulting demand for new forms of social scientific expertise. After exploring the colonial engagement of researchers in sociology and neighboring fields between and after 1945, he turns to detailed examinations of the work of Aron, who created a sociology of empires; Berque, the leading historical sociologist of North Africa; Balandier, the founder of French Africanist sociology; and Bourdieu, whose renowned theoretical concepts were forged in war-torn, late-colonial Algeria"--



Sociology--History--France--20th century.


Fellow Berthold Leibinger Fellow Class of Spring 2020 Written at the Academy

HM477.F8 / S74 2023

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