Book review: Sociological Amnesia (2015)

sa.jpgSociological Amnesia: Cross-currents in Disciplinary History was published in July 2015. It is a book edited by Alex Law who's Professor of Sociology at the University of Dundee and by Eric Royal Lybeck, who's Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Exeter. It is composed of 12 chapters that deal with various sociological figures that have been largely forgotten (Lucien Goldmann, Robert Bellah, Alasdair Macintyre) or on the verge of rehabilitation (Gabriel Tarde, Raymond Aron, G.D.H. Cole). Each try to understand this 'sociological amnesia' and why these writers have fallen out of fashion because, as usual, 'history is written by the victors'.

In their introduction (that you may read here), the authors explain that this may be explained 1) by the fact that these authors claimed to go past the disciplinary boundaries and therefore, what made them so interesting was the reason why they were lost and 2) that they failed to be passed from generation to generation by being taught into textbooks and being associated to a particular school of thought.


This book will undoubtedly be of interest to historians of sociology, if only because the sociological amnesia is something typical of the 'disciplinary battles' fought in our discipline. It is in our interest to remember our founder. I am particularly looking forward to reading the chapter on 'British sociology and Raymond Aron' (that you may read freely here) by Peter Baehr. Aron is one of the few French sociologists to have had a serious impact on British sociological life in the 1960s and intellectual links with Britain.


Halsey (2004, p. 70) for instance famously reported in his book on British sociology that, while  'Raymond Aron was visiting Oxford from Paris [probably in 1960] [...] [he] suddenly cut in to exclaim, ‘The trouble is that British sociology is essentially an attempt to make intellectual sense of the political problems of the Labour Party.’' It shouldn't come as a surprise that it is Aron's daughter herself, Dominique Schnapper, who wrote the chapter on the French reception of British sociology in Halsey and Runciman (2005). Although a fine observer of politics, surprisingly, Aron is usually seen as a right-wing, conservative sociologist in France and is not often remembered.


You may read a slightly different version of this book review in French in the Bulletin d'histoire de la sociologie, 2, March 2016 that is published by the GT49 of the French Sociological Association (AFS).

Buy it on the Routledge website.