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In the first volume of my Introduction to Sociology, published in 1886, I proceeded to the analysis and classification of the constitutive elements of societies; in the second volume, published in 1889, I entered upon the study of the social organs and functions considered alone. It remains for us to study societies in their general structure and afterward in their general life or totality. Structure and life correspond to the terms statics and dynamics, applied especially to Auguste Comte. It will appear later why we prefer the former expressions to the latter.

Many years have elapsed between the present publication and the appearance of the two preceding volumes; these years have been consecrated almost entirely to inductive researches. Some of the results of these researches have been published; others have formed the subjects of uninterrupted lectures upon social economy and the history of social economy, which I have given at L'Université Nouvelle de Bruxelles. During this period, now somewhat long, I have been constantly elaborating the present work, which, in conformity with the positive method, is therefore only the philosophical synthesis of my previous patient observations, résumés of which were given in the different lectures, numbering in all about twelve hundred, which I have delivered from 1889 to 1902. I expect to publish hereafter those concrete data of my abstract sociology of which my works upon taxes, upon coal-mining, upon the representative system, upon the evolution of beliefs and doctrines in the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Peru, Mexico, India, and China, upon commercial credit, upon money, upon credit and banks, etc., are fragments. I insist upon this point only in order to 'Translated by Robert Morris.

recall to mind, if need be, that, faithful to the positive method, the present work rests essentially upon the widest observation that it has been possible for me to make, in addition to the numerous materials furnished by the learned specialists whose works I have followed attentively. In the third volume of Abstract Sociology, documentation will therefore appear only in an explicative way, and not at all as demonstration; that is, as in the Transformisme social, a detached portion of the last part of my work devoted to the life of societies.

In the Structure générale, no more than in the Éléments and Functions et organs sociaux, or in Transformisme social and Lois sociologiques, do we claim, like Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer, to have constructed an abstract sociology in its entirety. At present such an attempt would surpass the individual capacity of the sociologist and the corresponding and preliminary maturity of the special social sciences. As heretofore, we shall have mainly in view the indication of the methods and plan which may doubtless lead to the construction of this sociology in the future. Yet we shall trace, as far as we can, some outlines calculated to indicate some principle features which maturer sociology will contain.

After the great synthetic, but premature, effort of Quetelet, of Comte, and of Spencer, it seems to me that the work ought to be renewed with the more complete co-ordination of the special social sciences, particularly of political economy, ethics, and law, which are in course of transformation.'

In Materialisme historique, I have already pointed out the danger to which we are exposed by a certain part of contemporaneous sociological literature with its particular points of view. I refer especially to the exclusively psychological school. It is producing a very brilliant, even useful, literature, but onesided, and therefore quite divested of that consideration of the ensemble which is and must remain precisely the sociological

'I expected to devote an early chapter of the work to a theoretical and critical exposé of the statics of Quetelet, of Comte, and of Spencer, an exposé which has been the subject of a three-years' course at L'Université nouvelle, but this chapter has itself become a considerable volume, which I hope to publish soon as a complement of the present work.

point of view. But this present inferiority is only relative; it prepares for future progress; it is precisely like that equally natural phenomenon the attempt of the founders of sociology (with the possible exception of Quetelet) to create a social synthesis at a time when the social sciences, and even the sciences directly anterior to sociology, such as biology and psychology, were yet insufficiently developed. The result has been the biologic and psychologic interpretations, and then also the later materialistic or economic interpretations-all of which indicate precisely the necessity of reconstructing sociology upon all the facts of each of these sciences. Likewise, we see one school contending that the social question is a moral question, another that it is a juridical question, while the majority still consider it essentially political.

Transition from the study of social elements, functions, and organs to the study of the general structure of societies necessitates both a few definitions and a few retrospective surveys.

We have defined "sociology" as the general philosophy of the special social sciences. These are:

1. Economics, or the science of social nutrition.

2. Genetics, or the science of population.

3. Esthetics.

4. Collective psychology: religion, metaphysics, positive philosophy.

5. Ethics.

6. Law.

7. Politics.

Each of these sciences has its special philosophy. It is the abstract ensemble of these philosophies that constitutes the domain of sociology.

This classification represents to us the totality of the social sciences according to their natural, logical, historical, and dogmatic order of increasing specialization and complexity, or of decreasing generality and simplicity, in conformity with the classification of antecedent sciences established by Auguste Comte. This order of classification is abstract, for in concrete reality every economic phenomenon, for example, implies a

genetic, æsthetic, psychic, moral, and juridic aspect, to say nothing of a political aspect; and in the same way every psychic phenomenon, to give another example, is inseparable from the series. of the other points of view.

This leads us to recall that the sciences in general are concrete or abstract; concrete when they look upon the phenomena, the relations, the properties, the laws in the bodies themselves whose study constitutes their domain; abstract when they consider, on the contrary, these phenomena, relations, properties, and laws independently of the bodies and aside from the variable conditions of the same in time and space.

Thus mathematics, mechanics, and rational astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and abstract psychology, are to be distinguished from such kindred sciences as calculus, mineralogy, crystallography, botany, zoölogy, human psycho-physiology, pedagogy, medicine, including psychiatry, etc. Likewise, the social sciences are concrete in so far as they relate to particular civilizations, societies, and institutions considered in their entirety; from this point of view they are essentially descriptive and based upon observation and experience.

The abstract sciences in general have the concrete sciences as their foundation, and this is true with regard to the social sciences. The abstract social sciences advance to general, universal laws from the special historical laws developed by the concrete social sciences. This is true not merely of those parts of the social sciences which have as their special object the quantitative study of the constitutive elements of societies. Although statical analysis may be applied to these elements aside from the forms in which they concretely appear, it nevertheless remains concrete and historical as long as it does not rise to general relations common to the ensemble of civilizations. its turn, concrete and descriptive sociology is transformed into a general and abstract philosophy, whose laws, more and more reduced, are the co-ordinated expression of the relations common to all societies from the simplest to the most complex, without regard to their variable conditions in the past, present, or future. Abstract sociology attempts also to reduce these temporary or historical variations to a regular order, to laws.


The possibility of establishing an abstract sociology has been strongly contested by the different schools, which recognize only historical laws, that is to say, laws applicable solely to determined periods and civilizations. Naturally, it had to be thus, since, in sociology as elsewhere, concrete knowledge precedes abstract knowledge, and since the different attempts to establish an abstract sociology, from the fact that they were premature, seemed by their very feebleness and imperfection to confirm the condemnation pronounced by the representatives of the purely historical school. Yet, this condemnation will not be perpetual; the very progress of the concrete social sciences will result in lessening its severity and duration. It was also necessary that this conflict blaze out with greatest force precisely in the domain of economic science, the first of the social sciences in order of formation; but, for the same cause, it is also in this science that it will soonest come to an end. The passage to an abstract social economy will be facilitated by the works of Wagner, Roscher, Rumelin, Schmoller, and, among the socialists, of Karl Marx, as well as by the more and more profound studies relative to population, family, art, to scientific and philosophic doctrines, and to moral, juridic, and political institutions. Even the facts of social life make for this result; in proportion as the vast, world-wide society is organized with its superior centers of co-ordination above the particular societies, it will be recognized that common, constant, and universal laws have always governed in the formation and evolution of historic societies, apart from and beyond their accessory variations. This unity of sociological philosophy will appear plain with the world-wide unity of reality. Then, thanks to the progressive narrowing of the amplitude of social oscillations in a more and more co-ordinated world-wide civilization, it will be recognized so much the easier that, notwithstanding the more ample and apparently more disordered oscillations and variations of particular antecedent civilizations, in reality the same order is always imposed, although with purturbations, which, however, have never succeeded in altering its general character, structural as well as evolutive, static as well as dynamic.

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