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Expanding the classical in classical sociology

Wickham, G. (2007) Expanding the classical in classical sociology. Journal of Classical Sociology, 7 (3). pp. 243-265.

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If it is to become a more widely used resource at the present time, when the demand is growing for explanations of the predicament of modern western society in the wake of the events of 11 September 2001 and various similar subsequent events around the globe, classical sociology might pay more attention than it usually does to a particular set of early modern developments. These developments, it is argued here, actually created the form of the social that became large-scale modern western society. This new form of the social was and remains distinct from those older forms that were seen to flow from the natural sociality of human beings. Between the middle of the 16th century and the end of the 17th the new form of the social emerged in different parts of Europe, contingently but not entirely accidentally, as a separate domain of relatively safe and free human interaction. It was a consequence - in part intended, in part unintended - of different bids to secure civil peace in times of extreme inter-communal, inter-confessional violence. These bids included, to name just three measures: the development of new forms of public law, especially in Germany; the development of the absolutist state, especially in France; and the separation of private religious conscience from public legal conscience, especially in England. As they were all, in one way or another, steps towards stemming, stopping, and/or preventing the flow of blood caused by religious hatreds, they are here called early modern limiting measures, and the social at the centre of the article is sometimes called the limited social or limited society.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: SAGE Publications
Copyright: © 2007 SAGE
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