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The Decline of the Social

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

It is impossible to define sociology other than by reference to ill-defined entities like society or the social. Nevertheless, it seems necessary nowadays to ask the question explicitly, whether these referents have relevant meaningful contents. The idea of society has been profoundly reformist or reforming. Wherever the political system has become open and more complex, and state intervention in economic life has expanded, the field of sociology itself has expanded to the point where we can speak of the triumph of a sociological vision of the world. Industrial society was a complete historical construction, defined by a morality, a philosophy of history and various forms of solidarity. The idea of society was never more closely associated with those of production and social justice. Now, we no longer live our collective life in purely "social" terms nor expect social answers to our problems. The decomposition of the idea of society, set off by the fragmentation of the world in which that idea developed, got worse. The current predominance of the theme of globalization has been accelerating the decline of the "social" representation of public life. The time has come to reconstruct sociology, no longer on the basis of what we thought was a definition of the social and of society, but on the basis of the explosion of those ensembles which had been thought to be solid, and of the attempts to reconstruct the space in which subjects can reconstitute a fabric of consensus, compromise and conflict.


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