the congresses of the international institute of sociology from 1894 to

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Dr. Dr. (F) Ulrike Schuerkens, Humboldt-University Berlin (Germany)
Councillor of the IIS Board, 1996-2001
This article has been published in French under the title "Les Congr
s de
l'Institut International de Sociologie de 1894 ˆ 1930 et l'internationalisation de la
sociologie", in: International Review of Sociologie, 6, 1, 1996, 7-24,
[email protected]
The Congress "100 Years of Sociology: Retrospect and Prospect" celebration of
the centenary of the International Institute of Sociology (IIS) brought me to a
deep analysis of the Annals of the IIS published between 1894 and 1932. [3]
Since the creation of the International Institute of Sociology in Paris in 1893, a number of
international congresses have been organized, by the Institute's general secretary, RenŽ Worms.
The congress volumes document the findings, discussions and life of the Institute. These Annals
contain precious information about the activities of the Institute during this time. Besides the list of
the members and their work positions, they give a detailed account of the international activities
during those years. At the very beginning, RenŽ Worms succeeded in bringing together the best
known personalities from various countries in Europe from England to Russia and from North and
South America, in accordance with the vocation of the Institute. The Congresses became the
meeting place for personalities from all over the world who participated in the presentation of their
research, the exchange of points of view and the discussion of issues, which were sometimes
suggested by the Institute as themes of a particular Congress meeting, and at other occasions,
just decided by the participants themselves. Today, these documents offer us information about
the particularities of the internal relations at this time between people whose professions were
somehow closely linked to sociology. Furthermore, they permit an understanding of the
professional obligations connected to the historical period, for instance, the necessity of an
affirmation as learned society and the particular character of a conception of sociology that the
Congresses and the contributions reflect.
These documents have been analyzed from several points of view: a) various domains of
sociology which were covered in contributions during the Congresses; b) the analysis of a
number of speeches reflecting the Institute's international vocation; c) the adherents' activities,
both national and international; and d) the professional and geographical diversity of the
Institute's members and associates.
My purpose is to describe the activities of the Institute during this period, to distinguish
particularities linked to this historical moment and to the improvement of the discipline, and, to
rediscover the international findings of personalities broadly known in the discipline.
Eleven volumes of the Congress findings of the International Institute of Sociology have been
published. Five volumes contain findings of different years between 1894 and 1902. Each volume
counts between 300 and 600 pages, with an average length of 411 pages. The first ten volumes
came out each year between 1894 and 1904, this is the reason of the title Annals. The volumes
eleven, thirteen and fourteen have been published in an interval of three years, which
corresponds to the organization of the congresses that were held every three years. The volumes
XII and XIII contain the Bern Congress' findings from 1909. Volume XIV published the 1912
Rome Congress' findings and the volume XV, publishing the ninth Congress' findings held on
October 1927 in Paris, came out in 1928 and the volume XVI, the last one of that series,
containing the tenth Congress' findings of October 1930 held in Geneva, was brought out in 1932.
The first World War hindered the organization of the Congress expected in 1915. Another
Congress was expected in 1925, but the illness and death of RenŽ Worms, founder and general
secretary of the Institute rendered the meeting impossible. Even the Institute's survival was
uncertain, because many of the members either died in war or were ill. The physical distance
between the members living in various countries made a revival difficult. Gaston Richard,
professor and RenŽ Worms' old friend, was designated general secretary, "because of the
common ideas" [4] (1928, p. 56).
The first Congress' findings took place around a predefined topic. The choice was left to the
participants. On the contents' page, we find presentations on prehistory, public schools, the
program of sociology or the adaptation to a social community. From the second Congress on,
themes having priority are specified. Presentations chosen in accordance with the members' and
associates' interests were also accepted. Among those topics are research on different
conceptions of sociology, matriarchy, the concept of aristocracy and the development of political
Only members had the right to present their research during the Congress period, or to propose
articles to be published in the Annals during the years where no congress meeting was
scheduled. The 1896 findings, published between the second and the third Congress, dealt with
issues such as the relationship between sociology and biology, morality and sociology, sociology
and politics, the development of political institutions, and the origins of the ideas of nation and
The third Congress adopted the same procedure suggesting a focus on the topic of organization.
Other topics discussed include the definition of sociology by the German scholar, Ludwig Stein.
Other presentations were dedicated to the study of colonies, the organic theory of societies, the
notion of monarchy and the role of public assistance from a sociological point of view.
Volume V contains the findings of the year 1898. Among the themes dealt with were organization
of sociology, the organic theory of societies, the development of the language, man in his
relationship to society, and the topic of social change.
Volume VI contains the papers of the year 1899: there are research papers presented on
theoretical sociology, on the individual and the collectivity, on Nietzsche and individualism, on
commerce, shops and cooperatives, and on socio-linguistics.
The findings of the fourth Congress are published in volume VII and dealt with the issue of
economical and historical materialism. We can find presentations on the clan, the family, social
mechanics, industrial associations and the unfolding of peaceful strikes. Volume VIII of the
Annals deals with the same topic, publishing other congress findings and later research. Other
topics then discussed include: the economic materialism, the rational foundations of historical
materialism and its relationship with philosophy and sociology at this time. Among later findings,
you can find topics such as historical materialism, the power of ideas, or the economical factor in
social organisations.
Volume IX publishes the findings of the year 1902. The contents' page includes topics such as
social differentiation and social integration, workers' associations, the relationship between
generations, sociology, and law.
The fifth Congress analyzed the relationship between sociology and psychology. Many
researchers held speeches on topics such as popular traditions in social psychology and in
The sixth Congress held in London deals with the topic of class struggle. The research
endeavours to tackle a critical appraisal of evolutionism, war as a historical struggle, biological
struggles, the role of war in history, the involvement of spiritual power in class struggles, struggles
of workers and the unemployed, the sociology of political parties.
The seventh Congress, held in Bern, treats the topic of social solidarity in time and space. The
presentations deal with themes such as the origin and evolution of solidarity, social solidarity and
religious improvement, social solidarity in England, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Spain, France,
Italy, Hungary, Russia and Peru. Volume XIII deals with the same theme. We find deliberations
on human associations, cosmopolitanism and nationalism. A certain number of contributions deal
with different forms of solidarity: the hero and the masses, woman and public life, solidarity at
school, parliamentary solidarity. Others lean on theoretical aspects of solidarity: the sociological
concept of solidarity, the psychological foundations of social solidarity, or the sociological
meaning of solidarity. Finally, the limits and diversions of human solidarity are analyzed.
The eighth Congress, held in Rome, chose the subject of social progress. In the table of contents,
we find topics such as anthropological progress, intellectual progress, biological conditions of
progress, economical progress such as progress in production, progress in wealth sharing and in
consumption. Under the heading "Political progress" are dealt with the relationship between the
individual and the economic development, and progress in education and music. The
presentations were dedicated to theoretical aspects of progress. We find titles such as
"Spontaneous progress and voluntary progress", "The sociological concept of progress", "The
progress as value substitution: The partial and contradictory character of progress", and "The
philosophy of progress".
The theme of the 9th Congress was "Authority and hierarchy". Topics such as the origin and idea
of sovereignty, the principle of authority in modern states or schools, the sociology of social
hierarchies, and the rules of wealth sharing were discussed.
The 10th Congress, held in Geneva, dealt with the issue of war from a sociological point of view.
We find presentations entitled "Note on the sociology of war", "Migrations as factors of war and
peace", "Problems of minorities", "Social constraints and war", "Churches and peace", "Peoples'
rights", "The political and economic factors of war and peace" and "Labour unions and peace".
Four out of ten congresses were held in Paris. Debated themes dealt with the fundamental issues
of sociology. They are presented and discussed according to the knowledge at this time. Few of
these presentations focus on a particular issue of a given country, though the variety of the
members' origin could have favoured such a move. The 7th Congress analysed the issue of
solidarity in different western and eastern countries. In the volumes I, IX and IX, we find
deliberations about Russia, France, Italy which respectively titled: "The idea of prehistory in
Russia" (I), "Workers associations in France under the second Empire" (IX), and "Political and
social progress in Italy" (XI).
It is interesting to analyze in detail the topics of the presentations at different congresses and
those volumes of the Annals containing the findings of the members for the years 1894-1902. The
volumes of the Annals up to the 1903 Congress shows the members' interest for general
sociological topics, for instance, political and economical sociology, urban sociology, the notion of
evolution related to different issues, the sociology of the family, the sociology of religion, the
individual and society, questions on methods (the graphical method, induction in sociology,
causality, and experimentation), law (crime, criminal law, vengeance, justice), history (the origin
of the nation, the evolution of the idea of democracy, the historical passage to individual property,
the evolution of political forms, and labour division). For the general secretary, RenŽ Worms, the
congress met in order to analyze a given topic. The Annals contain the findings of the most wellknown sociologists of this time. Thus, different volumes present a specific theme in an exhaustive
development of various, complementary points of view.
The topics reveal the fundamental issues of the discipline. The key point of the organizers is to
elucidate a specific topic which can contribute to further analysis. Thus, the Annals offer a certain
period in the history of the discipline which consisted in formulating and specifying topics to study,
conceive, and fit theoretical approaches often resembling the conception of natural sciences.
Those deliberations allow sociologists to limit different fields of the discipline and though
researchers presenting their findings often held chairs such as "political economy", "law",
"history", etc., the theoretical and methodical efforts are directed to the study of social
relationships and issues which require public action. [5]
AND 1931
In July 1893, the project linked to the Institute's creation was to bring together researchers from
all over the world dealing with the study of societies. For the founders, the members should be
interested in the research of social phenomena, and emphasize different theoretical approaches.
The members of the Institute were supposed to analyze human societies conforming to several
points of view, and different from sciences such as history or economy [6] . According to Worms,
only one research method suited the members of the Institute: "The method (of) ( É) observation,
experimentation, classification and induction" [7] . And he continues: "apart from these, (the
founders, U.S.) do not impose any dogma or belief, each member is free in his thought, word and
action" [8] .
The first article of the statutes expresses the Institute's objective: "The purpose of the
International Institute of Sociology is to group diverse sociologists from various countries
together, in order to study sociological problems on the agenda" [9] . And the fourth article
proclaims: "The congress listens to and discusses the findings of members and associates of the
Institute related to sociological questions on the agenda" [10] . Concerning the sixth article of the
statutes, the Institute had to publish one volume annually, containing congress presentations and
discussions which were held; and in the interval between two congresses, the findings of
associates and members which were not delivered during a congress [11] .
The IIS first Congress was organized in the building of the Society of Anthropology in Paris.
>From more than fifty members and more than twenty associates, approximately twenty were
present and nine sent papers. The participating group comprised between 50 and 150 people.
Participants included people in science, administration, and press. Among the members of the
profession, the congress was already considered as an occasion to become acquainted with
researchers who were only known through their published findings. Periodically, professionals
from various European countries, the United States and Japan met there. According to Worms,
these scholars were willing "to let the people know their true interests" [12] . The general
secretary evoked the international solidarity which was expressed by the fact that the first
congress was held in France, chaired by an Englishman, concluded by a Russian, and was
closed by the election of a German as chairman of the IIS for the next year.
During the Congress, R. Worms specified the conception of sociology within the Institute.
According to him, the principle of sociology "must first be the study of the social world as it is" [13]
. And he continued: "From there (the science, U.S.) gives a lesson of respect for the past, for the
present, even to men most concerned with directing the future in new ways" [14] . Then Worms
set up limits with "hollow declamations of some sectarians (...) without contradicting any lawful
aspiration towards reforms and progress, and by serving those aspirations, it is also a leading
school of modernisation, patience and prudence" [15] .
In his opening speech at the Congress, the chairman, Sir John Lubbock, pointed out the
Institute's importance in sociology. According to him, "the fact of bringing together representatives
from different nations is an advantage. This establishes friendships that contribute and will
contribute still more to avoid dissension and misunderstandings, which, between nations as well
as between individuals, are the beginning of great disputes" [16] . The association allows the
exchange of opinions and criticisms, and offers the possibility of learning through mutual
experiences to the representatives of different countries. In this sense, according to Sir Lubbock,
the activities of the Institute would build up an asset which would contribute to the progress of
humanity [17] .
The second Congress was again held in Paris at the beginning of October 1895. Approximately
thirty members and associates were present. Ten participants sent papers for discussion. The
Congress received favourable comments from the press and state officials. In his opening
speech, Mr. Kovalewsky emphasized that the Institute helped to find solutions to issues which
were somewhat different in each country. According to him, the purpose of sociology is to
"establish the rules of human progress" [18] . The association became a privileged place of
finding solutions for common issues.
R. Worms emphasized that representatives of several disciplines met within the Institute,
including anthropologists, ethnographers, philosophers, historians, economists, lawyers, and
statisticians. According to him, the purpose of these meetings was to find the scientific truth [19] .
In addition, the general secretary drew attention to the fact that listed under congressists, there
were members of different social groups and professions.
Then Worms set forth that sociology can "reveal the true social order, the one which must
become the most certain guide, in fact, the only certainty of action and of life" [20] . And he
continues: "Clearly and fully, social science (...) will continue to offer the definition of justice and
of social utility, and the way to lay the society into the path of progress and happiness, avoiding a
break with what is precious in the traditions of the past, by modifying them, whenever it is
needed" [21] . He then emphasised the reformist tendencies of the discipline and the political
implications of the issues analyzed. The belief in the discipline and the possibilities of action were
then evoked. In accordance with the model of the natural sciences, the study of societies shall
allow the establishment of a future in accordance with the present.
Volume III of the Annals points out that "presently, the Institute contains almost
the totality of renowned sociologists, and important representatives of various
specialized social sciences, as well" [22] . Membership in the Institute was given to people
who "have been the sociologists of the front line" (1897, p. 26) and "more than one candidate had
to wait until this moment" [23] . The Institute put more importance on quality than the number of
members and associates. According to the statutes, members were limited to one hundred and
associates to two hundred. The Institute acted as a meeting point for representatives of the
profession. The Congresses "have contributed to the creation of the warmest personal links” [24] .
In addition, the association suggested the creation of national sociological societies. From the
second Congress on, we note the existence of the Sociological Society of Paris, after which the
societies of sociology of Geneva, Palermo, Brussels, London, the United States, and Hungary
were created.
The third Congress, in 1897, was also held at the Sorbonne in Paris. More than twenty IIS
members and associates were present. The number of participants was estimated at about 150
persons. Among them, we find researchers from other scholarly societies and many students. In
his opening speech to the Congress, the IIS chairman, P. de Lilienfeld, declared that the
economical and international life had deeply changed the different world societies in the course of
the 19th century. He concluded from this, that "sociology would be required, in the opening of the
new century, to deeply influence the spirits, and, on the other hand, the social relationships.
Consequently, the intellectual movement of humanity would be focused in the XXth century on
the perfection of the personality and the social sphere on which it relies [25] . Then de Lilienfeld
evoked tasks linked to the improvement of health, assistance, cooperation and social
relationships, both in a given society and between societies. [26] In fact, political parties, labour
unions, and charity associations contributed to the improvement of social relations, unthinkable in
the beginning of the century, for the majority of the people of the Western countries.
As previously, the Congress received a favourable reception from the press. Other professional
groups began to appreciate the research endeavours of the Institute, "(...) recognising the serious
character of our concern" [27] . Several learned societies were in contact with the IIS and the best
known European academies were interested in the publications of the Institute [28] . Worms
declared: "Just now, Mister Chairman, in your opening speech, you mentioned that the XIXth
century has been the era of the natural sciences, and you expressed your hope that the XXth
century will be the era of sociology" [29] . And he concluded by suggesting that "the learned and
the governmental man" (1898, p. 45) should more often closely cooperate. If we consider now the
social, economical and political transformations of this century, the social sciences have put
priority in the improvement of the standards of life, and this, not only for Western countries and
the United States, but for the entire globe. [30]
In volume V of the Annals, published in 1899, the general secretary said that sociologists although the difficult political situation in states and between states, due to the existence of
poverty, war and colonial conquests - continued their research which was to contribute to the
welfare of all [31] . "Without being separated, surely, from the interests of their homeland and
those of humanity, they believed that the best way for them to serve those larger interests was to
devote themselves more than ever to the elaboration of knowledge, of which they have more in
store. They said to themselves that knowledge had a peacekeeping virtue: First, by itself,
because the person which is penetrated by it receives a moral action; through the findings that it
produces; then, because those findings contribute to the welfare of all, and finally to satisfy lawful
aspirations and reduce the sources and occasions of conflict. Of course, they did not cheat
themselves, and it is from the publication of their discoveries, today not very accessible to the
masses, that can come the achievement of a material and moral state which necessarily will be
peaceful" [32] . These words are not different from the positivists conceptions at this time which
are particularly related to the findings of Comte - at least concerning Worms' statements - and
which considered that the growing social planning should contribute to the improvement of social
welfare. [33] The role of the discipline in the development of social relations is expressed in this
quotation. Today’s observer would still be struck by these ideas which, in our days, are rarely
expressed in sociological findings; because of the complexity of methods and techniques, we
sometimes have the tendency to forget those meta-theoretical and ontological orientations.
Volume VI contains the findings of the year 1899. This year there were more than eighty
members and approximately forty associates. The board pursued its practice of "(...) only opening
our body's doors to sociologists who have widely proved their devotion to science and put their
ability to usefully serve it". Several members of the Institute got distinctions: Sir Lubbock was
appointed peer of England and became member of the Chamber of the Lords; G. Tarde,
professor of sociology at the private school of political sciences and at the private college of
social sciences received the chair of modern philosophy at the Coll ge de France [34] .
Volume VII of the Annals published the findings of the fourth Congress which took place at the
Sorbonne in September 1900. Twenty members were present and several sent papers. Different
governments were represented in the Congress [35] . Worms pointed out: "You can see in this
appointment of official delegates, with the task of pursuing our findings, a spontaneous and very
flattering mark of interest they have in sociological matters and the esteem in which they keep the
body which is dedicated to this study" [36] . Politicians continued to be interested in the social
sciences: the participants at the first Congress were received by the President of the Republic,
and the minister of Trade and Industry received the participants of the fourth Congress. Worms
declared: "We wish to soon see a complete union between our theoretical research and their
practical action, for the profit of the people they have the mission to lead" [37] . At this time,
sociology was perceived as a discipline which offered answers to issues that the state had to
confront in its reform processes. However, the differentiation of works between researchers and
administrators was never noted at this beginning of the discipline's professionalization. Numerous
members of the Institute, besides their university chairs, filled positions of responsibility within the
governments of their countries. In addition, there were heads of state, ministers and other highranking officials among the members of the Institute.
The agenda of the fourth Congress dealt with the issue of economic materialism. As during
previous congresses, the topic was discussed in terms of the experiences and the international
perspectives of the participating members of various countries. Worms emitted the vow: "May
these efforts not be without utility; may they add to humanity’s knowledge to improve its
conditions, to this scientific treasure that the finishing 19th century must delegate to the century
which is going to start" [38] . Once again, a conception of sociology appears which is influenced
by the ideas of Comte, to whom knowledge must have a practical value so that the improvement
of science may contribute to the welfare of all. [39]
Volume VIII contains several contributions to the 1900 Congress and the findings of the years
1900 and 1901 about the thematic of historical and economical materialism. In his speech,
Worms evoked the international organization of scientific work and mentioned that the Institute
was composed of various nationalities and competencies [40] . According to Worms, "A similar
list, where distinct competencies and nationalities closely meet together, is it not, in short, the due
image of the Institute, which is known to give positions to the most varied merits in its
composition" [41] .
Approximately twenty members and associates participated in the 5th Congress which was held
in Paris in July 1903. Several adherents sent papers. A public of 200, including senior officials,
famous researchers, members of the Paris Society of Sociology and the school of advanced
social studies [42] participated in findings published in volume X of the Annals [43] .
In his opening speech, the IIS chairman Lester F. Ward, an American, stated that he believes that
sociology must reach "(...) the state of exact and applied science" [44] and that only in this way
could sociology give an answer to public necessities [45] . Then he informed the congressists on
the creation of sociology chairs in various countries and of the situation of the social sciences in
the primary and secondary schools. According to Ward, sociology "is a science devoted to the
interests of all without discrimination (...) (and it) is the science of welfare" [46] . In this way, the
purpose of sociology was to reach a balance between the aspirations of individuals and social
rules established in accordance with the particular conditions at this time. [47]
And Ward continued: "Sociology studies the advantage of all, and the pursued purpose as an
applied science, is a general human happiness. (...) Its importance is always increasing according
to the level of our concentration on the study of social phenomena and true reports between
them" [48] . Then he states that "(...) the true renaissance of sociology in Europe and elsewhere
is related (...) to the International Institute of Sociology." [49] This quotation shows the situation of
sociology at the beginning of the century. Was it not France which most favoured sociological
studies? A country which encouraged the analysis of social facts, and where the first society of
sociology in Europe was created?
Worms pointed out that the Congress contributed to specific ideas, to clear up difficulties of
understanding and to create connections and acceptable synthesis. The Institute then groups
together more than ninety members and about fifty associates. "You see on the list the leaders of
almost all great sociological schools and the directors of publications or institutions aimed at the
advancement of our science" [50] .
The 6th Congress, held in July 1906 in London with findings published in volume XI of the Annals,
assembled 120 people during the opening meeting and between 40 and 70 people in other
meetings. In his opening speech, the Chairman in function, E. Levasseur, put the question: "What
can we say about sociologists who dedicated themselves to study the entire species and the
reciprocal needs and contacts created among individuals?" [51] And he supplied the answer:
"What we want is to discover, to give out and to penetrate the intimate reasons of institutions and
customs of people through the changing shapes, to illuminate the connections between various
social phenomena elucidated by those sciences and to explain how the network is formed,
deformed, and transformed in various moulds that nature offers to human socialization, and this
under the endless pressure of needs, ideas, events that occur in the life of societies" [52] . And he
continued: "In sum, sociology, if I am not deceiving myself, purposes: first, the study of general
facts related to the Constitution and the improvement of societies; secondly, through the
synthesis of the social sciences all together, the discovery of general laws which govern social
relationship." [53] He concluded by proposing this: "May we advise sociology to ambitious
thinkers who enlarge and transform the philosophy of history, may we advise modesty to
sociologists" [54]
Sociology would contribute according to this conception to the
rationalization of social relations. It would assure the integration and the
development of society. Rules deduced from empirical studies would allow the
establishment of previsions and the preparation of reforms.
The Institute then reached almost the maximum number of one hundred members and brought
together more than sixty associates. The quality of its findings made it renowned all over the
world. Philosophical, economical and historical magazines started to be interested in the issues of
sociology and the teaching of sociology became more and more wide-spread. Several members
and associates worked at the ƒcole des Hautes ƒtudes en Sciences Sociales and the private
college of social sciences, and they held first line positions [55] .
In his speech about the activities of the Institute between the Congress in Paris and the one of
London, Worms emphasized a particular point of the conception of sociology within the Institute:
"Our purpose, for we men of studies, is to illuminate the hard and complex problems that we are
concerned with. But we know that to produce more light means to prepare, for man and society,
more power and more freedom, more justice and more happiness" [56] . Sociology brought
knowledge based on empirical observations, and, thus, could contribute to introduce social
In his closing speech, the chairman E. Levasseur emphasized the relationships created by the
congresses among scholars of the same discipline, and the possibility of scientific cooperation
which it brought forth. He mentioned: "Those are the connections which are beneficial to scholars
in their studies because separation does not break fraternal links. Anytime that one of us needs
information from a colleague with whom he was close to during the congress, he is sure enough
to find a kindly and willingly welcome through correspondence" [57] .
Volumes XII and XIII contain the findings of the 7th Congress held in July 1909 in Bern. The
Institute was recognised as being of public utility by the President of the French Republic by a
decree of March 5th 1909. For Worms, this was a matter of great success in the Institute's
history: "Because, on one side, this decree gives a permanent stability to our corporation, in
collating all authority of a civilian personality with the right to receive donations and heritages. On
the other side, it set up the "renaissance" of the research done by this corporation to the science,
a given authority in the intellectual world; it gave a mark of esteem still more flattering since it was
without example - no other international association has ever received it" [58] .
The Congress took place before an international public. About thirty IIS adherents participated.
Professionals from fourteen nations brought forth their contributions to the Congress, presenting
research and participating in discussions. The number of participants was between 400 and 500.
Among them, there were many students. In his opening speech, the Earl of Aunay, French
ambassador in Switzerland, declared: "Thanks to your research, nations could find the best
solutions to assure their prosperity, their development, their greatness, and, in making new steps
in the direction of progress, they will acknowledge, because of you, that it is only to ask science
about the outcome of the social drama" [59] . The positive perception of the role of the discipline
in the history of humanity continues to be emphasized. The politician of this time shared the idea
that science would be capable to produce propositions which may contribute to the appearance of
societal structures, and to establish previsions about the improvement of social relationships.
Volume XIV contains the findings of the 8th Congress held in October 1912 in Rome. 41
members and associates participated in the Congress through verbal or written contributions.
This represents the highest participation to a congress at that time [60] . The public consisted of
eminent scholars, famous writers and other personalities. In his speech, Mr. Credaro, minister of
public instruction, states his conception of sociology. In his view, the purpose of sociology was to
establish "(...) a global view, an unitarian plan reflecting rules that operate in the human society
during the improvement of the civilisation" [61] . And he continued: "The development of the
social sciences is the result of a challenge of history. History renovates, in increasing them, the
problems of science" [62] . Then, as the politician he was, Credaro expressed a view that
emphasized the tighter relationship between sociology and politics, in comparison with social and
historical transformations. According to him, these relations focus on the long-term and find
themselves intrinsically linked.
The congress' theme was social progress. In his opening speech, vice-chairman Ferdinand
Buisson mentioned that "(...) the progress in human societies is a human force. It is not a force
from nature, a law of things that are independent from us. Progress does create itself
automatically, even if it seems to be so. It needs human help, and it is itself under fluctuations, its
gait(...) has leaps and falls, moments of pause and of fewer [63] . And he continued: "It is just this
vision of uncertainty - that is freedom and responsibility - incorporated, in the idea of progress
which gives such a moving and passionate interest to our research endeavours, analysis and
synthesis" [64] . Buisson rejoined here the proposals of Comte, that social progress consists of
achieving a more and more perfect social harmony in avoiding conflicts. [65]
Worms then reminded the participants that because of the activities of the Institute, societies of
sociology were created in various countries. Their purpose was to contribute to the cohesion and
the stability of the profession [66] . According to the general secretary, the IIS congresses "(...)
help to carry out the agreement at least on a part of all doctrines. Without attempting to break
down the barriers that history has established, they create for all our adherents a kind of common
spiritual home" [67] . The international origin of the members is still considered as a fact of
cohesion crossing national frontiers.
Volume XV contains the findings of the 9th Congress held in October 1927 in Paris. The first
purpose of the Congress "(...) was to confirm the existence of the International Institute of
Sociology, which was in question because of a fatal interruption of its periodical assemblies" [68] .
In his opening speech, the IIS chairman, F. Buisson mentioned that sociology henceforth was
included in programs of ordinary primary schools. Studies include economical sociology,
sociology of the family, and political and religious sociology [69] .
The 10th Congress took place in October 1930 in Geneva. Gaston Richard, general secretary
and the successor of R. Worms, pointed out: "It was for many the merit of our founder, and the
result of his efforts to calm all these prejudices step by step, to demonstrate that sociology was
neither a symbol of a philosophical school, nor the mask of a political party, but that it refocused,
with new resources and more certain methods, a set of problems already examined by Plato and
Aristotle. The indefatigable activity of RenŽ Worms, the width of his views, his selecting spirit, the
reserved attitude which he believed to have in front of questions of applied sociology; all this
allowed him to group indiscriminately different nationalities, schools, specialities - a whole host of
spirits - which in meeting together periodically during congresses acknowledge a secret affinity
between studies and researches which up to this time, were somehow believed to be
independent and even heterogeneous" [70] . The decisive role of the association as an element
of cohesion and professionalization of the discipline was again emphasized.
According to Richard, Worms demonstrated "(...) that you could submit social problems to the
most distinguished and practical discussions between sons of different nations and that a big
international association was not necessarily disruptive" [71] . The activities of the International
Institute of Sociology were henceforth considered complementary to those of national sociological
associations, considering the fact that those last ones contribute to the Institute's findings which,
by then, demonstrate his linking character between national societies of sociology and
international activities. And Richard continued: "(...) there is no higher task or use for our
International Institute of Sociology than to serve as a link to all independent centers of research.
These research centers themselves collaborate with the sociology chairs and the institutes
surrounding them" [72] .
In 1894, we find more than thirty professors among the members, of whom ten filled chairs of law
(public law, international law, criminal law and compared legislation), seven held chairs of political
economy, five of history (modern history, history of religions), and four chairs of philosophy. In
addition, among the adherents, we count chairs of political sciences, social sciences, sociology
and anthropology. Among the members, we find members of the great European academies of
the time, politicians (senators and state counsellors), lawyers and magistrates, professors without
an indication of the title of their chairs, lecturers and assistant professors.
The associates were selected from people of lower positions in comparison to the members.
There were advertising executives, lawyers, high school teachers, members of scholarly
associations, holders of various university titles (aggregation, bachelor's degree, PhD), magazine
directors, professors (business law, French law) and assistant professors.
The list of occupations demonstrate that most of the members despite their
sociological research still filled chairs in disciplines such as history, law,
philosophy or political economy. Some rare people had chairs of sociology. This
situation was explained by the fact that sociology had not yet built up itself into a
science. The associates had very varied professions, demonstrating the low
level of the discipline's professionalization.
In the following years, this tendency continued. But as of 1899, we note that new members began
to occupy chairs of sociology and anthropology, and the associates held more and more
university degrees in sociology, political science and anthropology. Often the adherents
participated in a scholarly association, in spite of the fact that the majority of their professions
were other than sociology. In 1909, there were two professors of sociology and two
"Privatdozenten" [73] in sociology and social sciences among the members that had been
recently admitted.
In 1907, among the approximately one hundred members, nineteen occupied a chair of law, with
four in criminal law, three in constitutional law, four in public law and in the philosophy of law.
Others occupied chairs entitled "compared legislation", "administrative law", "international law",
etc. Twenty members had chairs in political economy, nine in philosophy, only eight in sociology,
five members occupied chairs in history, others had chairs in psychology, economy, geography,
anthropology, political sciences and legal medicine. Political economy and law appear among the
most represented disciplines within the Institute. Philosophy and history henceforth occupied a
place close to sociology, a fact which would become important for the future development of the
discipline. Among approximately sixty associates, were found professions like advertising
executive, lawyer, high school teacher, review director, university professor, assistant professor
and lecturer.
In October 1927, the Institute counted more than eighty people occupying a university chair.
Twenty had chairs in law (some of which were specialized in administrative law, roman law,
criminal law, international law, civilian law, etc.), sixteen occupied chairs of political economy,
twelve chairs of philosophy (four chairs are destined to social philosophy and law), nine occupied
chairs of sociology, five chairs of history, two professors had chairs of anthropology or
ethnography. We also find chairs of political science, economical science, education, psychology,
and statistics. Approximately ten adherents did not specify their chair title. Besides the significant
number of people occupying a chair in the social sciences in accordance with our recent
terminology, we note that political economy and philosophy share the largest number of chairs.
Approximately sixty people among the associates and members of a scholarly association [74]
held PhDs (law, philosophy, political sciences, etc.) and filled professions such as lecturer, high
school teacher, advertising executive, advocate or politician (deputy, minister, senator, and head
of state).
Eminent personalities are among the first members, such as L. F. Ward, L.
Brentano, G. Simmel, G. Tarde and F. Tšnnies. There are names such as G. Le
Bon, W. Sombart, P. Sorokin, Th. Veblen, A. Vierkandt, S. Webb and L. Stein.
Volume XVI of the Annals mention the adherence of new members, including W.
F. Ogburn, R. Thurnwald, L. von Wiese, M. Weber and associates such as R.
Bastide, F. Boas, Th. Geiger, K. Mannheim and F. Znaniecki.
The origin of the members was very varied. 47 of the fifty members of 1894 originated from
European countries: we find nine Englishmen, eight Spanish, eight French, eight Russians, four
Italians, four Germans, four Belgians, two Austrians, two Hungarians, one scholar from Portugal,
one Swedish, one Czech, two scholars from Latin America, and one from North America.
In 1907, the origin is scarcely different: twelve Italians, twelve Englishmen, ten Germans, ten
Belgians, nine Americans, nine French, eight Spanish, six Russians, five Hungarians, five
Austrians, three from Latin America, one Norwegian and one Dutch were all assembled together
within the Institute.
In 1927, the adherents numbered more than hundred people, from the following countries:
twenty-six French, twenty-four Italians, twenty-four Englishmen, fourteen Belgians, twelve North
Americans, ten Spanish, nine Germans, five Russians, five Austrians, four Argentinians, four
Hungarians, four Swiss, three Czechs, two Poles, two Mexicans, one Portuguese, one Dutch, one
Finn, one member from another Scandinavian country, one Brazilian, one person from Peru,
another from India, one Chilean, one Japanese, and one Kenyan. [75]
We will conclude in noting that the origins and functions of the members and associates were in
close relationship with the discipline's development between 1893 and 1930. The first members
divided themselves among very varied professions which all analyze a specific domain which can
derive from sociology. The range found testifies to the difficulties of professionalization in all
countries at this time. [76] The massive adherence of liberal professions and members of the
administration, and the political and educational spheres reveals that the discipline's definition still
remains vague and a variety of opinions and approaches coexisted with the research endeavours
of professionals who contributed to the discipline's history between 1893 and 1930, and this, in
different countries. [77] Nevertheless, the adherence to a positivist conception of science, the
belief in social reforms and the institutionalization of scientific and technical progress were
unifying the discipline.
Our analysis of sixteen volumes of the Annals proves the specific character of the Institute's
activities during the three to four decades following its creation. It reveals a particular conception
of the discipline and the Institute's role as a professional association. The congresses witnessed
the public's interest for this discipline: personalities from all over the world participate, scholars of
other disciplines and politicians were interested in presenting their research findings. Under the
rubric "Life of the International Institute of Sociology", RenŽ Worms described in extenso the
particular conception of sociology within the Institute and its political character. In several
speeches, the members' and associates' opinions, concerning the role of the discipline in the
study of societies and its relationship to the political sector, were pointed out. All these
contributions demonstrate that the discipline was conceived from its beginnings as a positive
science which still count the following fundamental investigation fields of the discipline: family,
economical life, social problems such as poverty, unemployment, and sickness. These topics
were during the twentieth century of primordial importance. This is demonstrated by the
improvement of social legislation, social assistance and social security. These themes at the
discipline's origins, facilitating the analysis of social relationship underline - as most of the
founders of sociology did as well - the human beings' social and non-social aspect.
The analysis of the activities of the first decades reveal particular problematics of the discipline.
These issues were formulated and studied, and formed the foundation of the discipline. Since the
thirties and forties of this century, sociology developed a theoretical and empirical discourse often
different from the first phase. [78] According to the prevailing ideas within the Institute, scientific
progress consisted in increasing the number of social relationships having the value of a law,
being independent of each other, and contributing to scientific knowledge conceived of at this
historic moment, such as positivism. [79] At a moment when the church's authority was in doubt,
where industrialization and urbanization had created problematics which forced self-reflection
upon society, the rise of sociology, as a discipline devoted to the description and the exploration
of society, proved to be essential. The Congresses show that the harmony of the group was
based on a common approach in front of social issues, approach which was defined and
redefined by Worms in different volumes of the Annals. This conception was characterized by
elements linked to a positivist science and to formal rules and deductions. Until the thirties, the
discipline's cohesion improved by a regular increase of professionalization at the level of
universities and institutions, and, thus by a group conscience and a common study object. [80]
At this time, sociologists were convinced that their findings would allow a change
of society in the present, through the analysis of the past, and by extrapolating
into the future. The discipline's founders had reacted to the crisis felt in the 19th
century, because of the transformations of social relationships linked to the
industrial revolution. Money became the factor that determined all social relations
[81] and which contributed to the destabilization of social institutions based on common criteria,
and, at the same time, to the development of aspects of societies, where - according to the
conceptions of Tšnnies - a change took place expressing the rupture between Gemeinschaft and
Gesellschaft. The charity of the powerful groups was no longer the element which allowed a
loosening of social relationships. The rupture was conceived, admitted, deplored, and considered
as destabilizing the social order. It required an analysis that the founders of the discipline had
started with somehow empirical and theoretical lucidity, as the findings of Durkheim, Tšnnies, and
Weber witness. So, a social demand had set up the foundation of sociology, a discipline which
tackled the analysis of social relationships. Although, at this time, a certain number of sociologists
declared themselves socialists, the difference between the sociological science and socialism
was underlined by most of the professional members.
The analysis of different volumes of the Annals allows us to rediscover sociological interpretations
considered important at a moment when the theoretical and empirical approaches of the
discipline were called to react to the fundamental problems of societies. The studied period,
which witnesses the discipline's origin, reveals that the societies' restructuring set up a challenge
that sociologists of this time had to rise to. In this sense, the discipline's centenary encourages us
to come back to the sources, to the principles that the founders of the discipline established and
which again today must be essential elements of inspiration for the discipline's future.
This article has been published in French: "Les Congr
s de l'Institut
International de Sociologie de 1894-1930 et l'Internationalisation de la
Sociologie", Revue Internationale de Sociologie, 6, 1, 1996, 7-24.
This manuscript, lightly revised, was the object of a presentation during the
XXXI International Congress of the International Institute of Sociology, IIS
Centenary, 100 Years of Sociology, Retrospect and Prospect, Paris, 21st to 25th
June 1993, in the working group: Theory: of the interest of sociology and the
human sciences.
See on the history of the International Institute of Sociology: Cerase and
Varotti, 1969, Castellano, 1992, d'Antonio, 1994.
[4] 1928,
p. 56.
See on the origins of the discipline Mazlish "A new science: the breakdown of
connections and the birth of sociology". The author tries to determine the origin of
sociology by referring to writers such as Burke, Rousseau and Carlyle who
interpreted in their writings the dizzy feeling they had in social life at this time. In
the second part of the book, Mazlish analyzes the findings of the founders of
sociology such as Tšnnies, Marx and Weber concerning the conception of a
rupture between the two kinds of social relationship.
[6] See
1895, p. 13.
[7] 1895,
p. 14.
[8] Ibid.
[9] 1895,
p. vi.
[10] 1895,
[11] See
p. vi.
1895, p. viii.
[12] 1895,
p. xxvi.
[13] 1895,
p. xxvii.
[14] 1895,
p. xxvii.
[15] 1895,
p. xxvii and following.
[16] 1895,
p. 3.
[17] See
1895, p. 12.
[18] 1896,
[19] See
p. 34.
1896, p. 48.
[20] 1896,
pp. 48-49.
[21] 1896,
p. 44.
[22] 1897,
p. 26.
[23] 1897,
p. 26.
[24] 1899,
pp. 26-27.
[25] 1898,
p. 38.
See Mazlish (1969, p. 161) who demonstrates the theoretical and practical
vision of the founders of sociology.
[27] 1898,
p. 43.
[28] See
1898, p. 43.
[29] 1898,
p. 45.
You can surely have a dizzy feeling to maintain that the situation of the
countries of the South did improve during the colonial and neo-colonial period.
But these changes were at least for some people a real progress. It seems to us
that this issue has to be considered conforming to another aspect, that is to say
as a historical change considered in accordance with the historical time and that
of generations. Colonization changed, for instance, characteristic structures of
African autochthonous societies, and in this way, a transformation can be notified
in the longue durŽe. Black African countries - to take an example - were
confronted with societies having very different institutions from theirs since the
beginning of this century. It is not easy to think that a change which in European
countries lasts for several centuries may be accomplished in a few generations.
The task of social sciences for the new century may probably be to reach the
improvement of social situations in southern countries such as Western countries
already experienced it.
[31] See
1899, p. 29.
[32] 1899,
pp. 29-30.
[33] See
the quotation of Habermas (1972, 72).
[34] See
1900, p. 39.
[35] See
1901, p. 38.
[36] Ibid.
[37] 1901,
p. 45.
[38] 1901,
p. 55.
[39] See
Halfpenny (1982, p. 19).
[40] See
1902, p. 42.
[41] 1902,
[42] This
p. 41
is the "ƒcole des Hautes ƒtudes en Sciences Sociales".
[43] 1904,
p. 40.
[44] 1904,
p. 53.
[45] See
1904, p. 53.
[46] 1904,
p. 53.
See Halfpenny (1982, p. 19). The author notes "(...) progressivism (or social
reformer) because the crisis of civilisation could be solved and social stability
restored by adjusting human desires to the scientifically established laws of
society, by re-establishing a scientifically based supra-individual moral order".
[48] 1904,
p. 54.
[49] 1904,
pp. 54-55.
[50] 1904,
p. 60.
[51] 1907,
p. 53.
[52] 1907,
p. 55.
[53] 1907,
p. 56.
1907, p. 64. See in this way Halfpenny (1982, p. 18) who notes: "Only on the
basis of empirical sociological laws, Comte insisted, could social harmony be
established and social reforms rationally planned and introduced, and the
disorder that results from attempting to fulfil impossible aspirations, among which
he included individual liberty, be avoided. Comte's positive sociology was a
science of stability and social reconstruction. It linked together order and
progress, which earlier had been thought to be implacably opposed."
[55] See
1907, p. 75.
[56] 1907,
p. 77.
[57] 1907,
p. 538.
[58] 1910,
p. 31.
[59] 1910,
p. 83.
[60] See
1913, p. 39.
[61] 1913,
p. 59.
[62] Ibid.
[63] 1913,
p. 69.
[64] 1913,
p. 70.
[65] See
Halfpenny (1982, p. 21).
[66] See
1913, pp. 72-73.
[67] 1913,
p. 73.
[68] 1928,
p. 42.
[69] 1928,
p. 50
[70] 1932,
pp. 16-17.
[71] 1932,
p. 17.
[72] 1932,
p. 19.
[73] In
Germany, these are private university lecturers who have fulfilled the formal
criterion to apply for chairs of full professors.
[74] Information
that has been given on members and associates are not distinctly
separated for the year 1927. Although the two presented lists refer to members
and associates, the members' final number would exceed the one hundred
members according to the statutes of the Institute. The professional activities
suggest that a separation between the two categories were not maintained.
The numbers may be different for some nationalities because of the fact that
for several adherents the country of origin is not mentioned.
See the articles in the book edited by Wagner et al. tackling with the situation
of sociology in different European countries at this time.
See for instance the studies of Michels (1930), Soffer (1978), and KŠsler
[78] See Beeghley and
Turner (1981, p. 11).
See Habermas (1972, p. 76) "From empiricism Comte borrows the viewpoint
that scientific cognition must be technically utilisable. He is convinced that "all our
sound theories (are necessarily related) to the continuous improvement of our
individual and collective conditions of Life - in opposition to the vain gratification
of a sterile curiosity"." Comte quoted according to Habermas (1972, p. 76).
See concerning sociology in Germany in the thirties, Zinn (1992). On the
relationship between the social sciences and the state, see, for instance, Wagner
(1989, 1990).
[81] See
Mazlish (1989, and particularly, pp. 55, 138).
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