Volume 2, Issue 2, Autumn 2016
Trajectories of Modernity
A Transnational World?
The Implications Of Transnationalism For Comparative Historical Sociology
The essay seeks to explore the implications of transnational and global history for comparative historical sociology, especially in light of notions of entangled history, postcolonial critiques, theories of the ‘Global South,’ and new interpretations of empire. It offers an assessment of the implications of the transnational turn for comparative history, arguing that, despite some of the claims made, this should largely be seen as a shift rather than a turn and as a corrective rather than a fundamentally new paradigm. Following from a discussion of some of the issues that have arisen from the transnational turn, in particular with respect to the work of a new generation of global historians, such as Bayly, Osterhammel and Pomeranz, the essay then considers the different contribution of comparative historical sociology, including civilizational analysis, as in the work of Eisenstadt and Arnason. The argument is advanced that while comparative historical sociology is today in crisis as a result of being overtaken by developments within transnational and global history, it offers much promise. The two fields cannot be entirely separated, but comparative historical sociology has a strong tradition of comparative analysis that is different from historiographical analysis and which remains undeveloped. The specificity of the sociological dimension is urgently in need of renewal. It is argued that this largely resides in an interpretative approach to social inquiry. However, this has not yet been fully exploited in relation to transnationalism.