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Social Imaginaries

Volume 4, Issue 2, Autumn 2018

Peter Wagner
Pages 109-134
DOI: 10.5840/si20184215

Social and Political Philosophy, Historical-Comparative Sociology and the Critical Diagnosis of the Present: a Reply

In reply to the contributions to Social Imaginaries vol. 4, no. 1, this article reviews the development of the research programme that the author has been pursuing over more than three decades. It places the emphasis on the conceptual and methodological requirements for a historical sociology of social change. It insists, on the one hand, on the need to avoid overly strong conceptual presuppositions to analyze social phenomena of large scale and long duration, while, on the other hand, sustaining the notion that a minimum of social and political philosophy as well as philosophy of history is necessary to comprehend the ways in which history is directed. Further emphasis is given to the difficulties that arise when studying social phenomena before 1800 and outside Europe, due to the strong epistemic impact European global domination has had since the “great divergence” at around 1800. The article concludes with reflections on the adequate kind of conceptual distinctions that are needed when analyzing large-scale phenomena such as “societies” as well as on the link between scholarly work and a critical, action-oriented diagnosis of the present time.