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George Ritzer

Subject Sociology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.00005.x


The origins of sociology are usually traced back to 1839 and the coining of the term by Auguste Comte, one of the important thinkers in the history of the discipline. However, others trace intellectual concern for sociological issues much further back, and it could be argued that scholars (and non-scholars) have been thinking sociologically since the early history of humankind. However, it was not until about a half-century after Comte's creation of the concept that sociology began to develop as a formal and clearly distinct discipline, primarily, at least at first, in Europe and the United States. It was another French thinker, Émile Durkheim, who in the late 1800s was responsible for distinguishing clearly the subject matter of sociology from neighboring fields. Sociology became institutionalized in France (thanks, importantly, to Durkheim's efforts), as well as in Germany, Great Britain, and the United States. While sociology in the United States did not take the early lead in the development of key ideas and theories, it did move strongly in the direction of institutionalization (as did sociology in other nations, especially Great Britain). Sociology has grown enormously in the one hundred plus years since the work of Durkheim and the early institutionalization of the field and is today a truly globe-straddling discipline. The sociological literature is now huge and highly diverse, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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