This book puts into theoretical form what Sewell takes ood mainsteam history social science practice to be With this book you et it all the history of the disciplineconfession social cultural history Fordism post Fordism working definitions of culture structure event and the social a healthy dose of materialism to succor those of us who have survived the linguistic turn a re arming of Heroes Giddens Bourdieu Geertz and Sahlins and a cogent defense of the necessity of thinking through synchronicity and diachronicity simultaneouslyI buy it so completely I haven t had time to sit down to think about where I might disagree More valuable than this I find Sewell an exceptionally clear writer I
Think This Book Has this book has a to teach about how to think and write theory and historyAnd even valuable this I like Sewell s attitude toward other disciplines and historians we shall critiue and share with each other Sewell is a builder a kindly force for the ood of mankind and the workers I am convinced An unexpectedly Lesca good book on social theory by a Marxist social historian who justly won the ASA Theory Prize for Outstanding Book in 2008 with his work If your research involves a historical dimension but you are not sure how to integrate the historical narrative into social scientific analysis you should check it outThe book is a collection of articles repurposed to form a consistent whole There is one chapter about the British and American history and social theory and it was a veryood summary Another chapter analyses the concept of structure in social sciences Surprisingly I realized how little I thought about this central concept The chapter about Sahlins theory of structural change was brilliant To me however the book s most important contribution to my thinking has been the concept of eventfullness which triggered an enormous number of neurons in my mind Those who often read theory know that it is a rare feeling This is a book of theory Sewell writes about his experience as a historian and evaluates the various approaches to history that he has been involved with Starting as a social historian using numerical methods to write about those without a voice he moved into cultural history which meant looking at texts for the meaning they shed on events He thinks that the social sciences have much to teach historians but he also argues here for what historians have to teach social scientists interested in history This is not an easy book to read but if you want to think about history and not just consume narratives this is a Sharpes Trafalgar good place to start Stimulating and largely persuasive Recommended to all my fellow history students particularly those doing social or cultural work which is to say recommended to everybody who knows what sood for youSewell s Punished goal is to bring historians and social scientists together He argues that each of theseroups has a useful theoretical contribution to make to the other Too often however historians either neglect theory or copy it unmodified from the other disciplines into their own writing The result in a work of history is to impoverish either the His To Protect generally static account of social context or the dynamic narrative of events respectively At the same time historiansenerally fail to articulate for social scientists their acute intuition regarding social time in other words historians have failed to help sociologists anthropologists and economists understand how events can transform social structures If they remedy this failing Sewell hopes historians will help social scientists create dynamic accounts of social lifeIn addition to this dialogue between historians and social scientists Sewell conducts a dialogue between social and cultural history which often amounts to a dialogue between structuralism and poststructuralism Sewell is annoyed that historians have had to choose between them especially when they are in an excellent position to demonstrate the consonance of these approaches He suggests that we might define culture as the semiotic dimension of human social practice ie as neither practice alone nor meaning alone but the meaning that attaches to material and practice 164 We might also define society as a built environment in which meaning both reshapes the material context of human life and is in turn shaped by that context 362 The ultimate oal here I infer is to create a place for human agency within structural theories of social life and at the same time a place for structure within theories of human agencyIn the short term Sewell s book is probably most valuable for its careful discussion of the historical implications of various social scientists work and of the social implications of various historians work No chapter lacks for examples In particular an historian reading the book may come away with a better understanding of the anthropologists Clifford Geertz and Marshall Sahlins who each et a full chapter Despite a healthy degree of repetition and reinforcement this collection of essays presents so many discrete concepts and arguments about historiography that it is often uite challenging but always invigorating simply to begin to assimilate its ideas as Babys First Christmas (Christmas Is For Kids) (Christmas Is For Kids) (Harlequin American Romances, 754) guides for the writing of history Yet so than most theoretical works Sewell clearly intends his work as an aid for historians who struggle with the conceptual thinness of many core practices in the field who would like to reground their own research and writing on soliderround than convention and piecemeal poaching from other disciplines Sewell s reat advantage in thi. While social scientists and historians have been exchanging ideas for a long time they have never developed a proper dialogue about social theory William H Sewell Jr observes that on uestions of theory the communication has been mostly one way from social science to history Logics of History argues that both history and the social sciences have something crucial to offer each other While his.
William H. Sewell Jr. ☆ 0 reviewEy are not independent of
One Another With The Lateranother with the later in fact reflecting what their participants had learned from observing the earlier cases But Sewell says that Skocpol s methodology is in fact a clever compromise of critically extending narratives from each of the cases to each of the others such that comparison enerates propositions whose potential enerality is tested by their ability to illuminate the conjunctural unfolding of analogous causal processes in the three cases 99Sewell then makes the case for an eventful temporality He defines an event as that relatively rare subclass of happenings that significantly transforms structures Unlike experimental or teleological conceptions of temporality an eventful temporality assumes that events are
path dependent is that what has happened at an earlier point in time will affect the possible outcomes of a seuence of events occurring at a later point in time 100 Events bring about historical changes in part by transforming the very cultural categories that shape and constrain human interaction An eventful concept of temporality then assumes a causal dependence of later occurrences on prior occurrences and assumes that social causality is temporally heterogeneous not temporally uniform Teleological and eventful temporality share an assumption of path dependence However teleological and eventful concepts of temporality differ most sharply on the uestion of contingency Teleological temporality is incompatible with the assumption of radical congruency that I regard as fundamental to eventful temporality 101 The implicit model not only specifies multiple causes but sorts out what might be characterized as different registers of causation preexisting structural conditions cultural social demographic economic conjunctural conditions and contingent strategic or volition always actions 109 This book is a compilation of a series of essays which Sewell wrote over the course of many years In it he argues that historians and social scientists can ain insight from each other Historians bring an understanding of change over time to the table while social scientists bring a robust focus on societal structures The first few chapters read like an autobiography Sewell uses his own experience during the 1960s and 70s as he experiences the social and cultural turns in historiography He relates these turns with the economical and political environments at those times This use of himself as a primary source has me caught between thinking of him as very arrogant for considering his experience worthy of extrapolation and very humble for displaying his strugglesIn the remaining chapters he provides examples for how the cross talk between historians and social scientists might lookWhile the concepts and terminology in theory are valuable this book is difficult to read He takes a lot of discussion to Baby Legacy (So Many Babies get to the point Don t expect a cohesive book rather read each chapter as a separate essay which contributes to the overall argument This is an excellent book and very readable as long as you are familiar with the concepts involved Sewell manages to make an impressively viable argument for incorporating useful aspects of the heavily structuralist social history into the contemporary cultural turn This kind of argument for synthesis and moderation in theory is too rare and refreshing to see I am all about chapters 7 8 and 9 in this book The others are reasonably compelling but they lack the historical context that make 7 8 and 9 so fascinating In chapter 7 he analyzes Marshall Sahlin s Possible Theory of History in the context of Sahlin s work on Captain Cook s ill fated trip to Hawaii There is probably no better example of being in the wrong place at the wrong time which means that Sahlin has areat appreciation for historical contingency and human agency Chapter 8 deals with one of Sewell s specialties the storming of the Bastille Sewell makes a compelling argument about how Bastille Day s prominence in the story of the French Revolution was not accidental nor was it inevitable Chapter 9 explores historical duration and temporal complexity through the changing fortunes of dockworkers in Marseilles I feel like these chapters are easy to et sucked into and are convincing than those which present naked theory aloneIt was also interesting to find out after reading the book that the essays are not in their original order In a way the whole book made sense when I realized that the reason certain things felt helter skelter was that they were decades apart in time A very useful book for social science students to et the sense of historians and history students to know the utility of developing conceptual tools The first chapter is espcially interesting as the author traced his own intellectual career and related it not only to shifts of academic paradigmns but also to structural changes in our contempoary world in which the academias are situated Later chapters Langlais correct pour les Nuls go deep in to methodological issuesrounded in his detailed presentation of the writings of the French Revolution Geertz and Sahlins surely inspired his ideas in a Constantly Craving great deal as Sewell was able to practice Geertz s insight of meanings as public and Sahlins s of the dialectical relationship between structure and event in very concrete historical studies His style is clear his conceptual awareness and his knowledge of the implicit and explict assumptions in a handful of disciplines simplyuides the reader through an enterprise which would have looked formidable. Istory sociology political science and anthropology Sewell argues that only by combining a sophisticated understanding of historical time with a concern for larger theoretical uestions can a satisfying social theory emerge In Logics of History he reveals the shape such an engagement could take some of the topics it could illuminate and how it might affect both sides of the disciplinary divid. S task is in fact his ability to articulate a common conceptualnormally path dependent
Grammar Buried Deep Beneathburied deep beneath jargon of the interpretive social sciences to demonstrate how anthropology sociology and history can and have be of mutual aid because they connect at crucial but freuently obscured theoretical maybe even metaphysical points Of reat and I would expect lasting value This is fundamentally a book that attempts to critiue the nomothetic and mechanistic assumptions of the social sciences from a hermeneutic perspective while at the same time asking historians to be theoretically explicit about how they think about causality He calls for dialog between historians and social scientists identifying social scientists who do social Theory Or Ualitative Methodologists or ualitative methodologists the most promising potential interlocutors Social scientists most theoretically valuable habit of mind in my opinion is their strong penchant for structural thinking social scientists tend to look for explanations in terms of a relatively limited set of enduring entrenched and causally powerful features of the social world Structural thinking is a social scientific virtue that historians could profitably emulate 14Specifically Sewell develops a complex recursive reflexive theory of social structure and how contingent and path dependent events are constantly both reinforcing and at at times remaking those structures It is an attempt in short to recuperate what the Annales School of historiography dismissed as histoire evenementielle eg the mere recounting of what happened In the end he attempts to recuperate the much maligned concept of the social by reconstituting it as overlapping and interconnected streams of semiotic practices 21 Most historians actually share a set of assumptions about how time is implicated in the organization and
transformation of social relations These assumptions can be stated abstractly We believe that time is fateful that every act is partof social relations These assumptions can be stated abstractly We believe that time is fateful that every act is part a seuence of actions and that its effects are profoundly dependent upon its place in the seuence that the outcome of action event or trend is likely to be contingent that its effects will depend upon the particular complex temporal seuence of which it is a part 6 7 While social scientists recognize temporal fatefulness as a truth of everyday existence most of them bracket this truth out of their scientific consciousness 8 Social temporality is extremely complex One significant characteristic of historical events is that they combine social processes with very different temporalities An eventful conception of temporality certainly posits that different historical times have effectively different rates of change that history may be accelerated by events Historians to put it differently assume that time is heterogeneous 9 Temporal heterogeneity implies causal heterogeneity This assumption is uite contrary to to the practices of mainstream social scientists whose entire mode of operation is to discover and apply eneral Causal laws implicitly or explicitly assumed to be independent of time and place 10 Historians know a lot about social temporality but they know it as a kind of professional common sense Historians in my experience suffer from a kind of narrative overconfidence 11 Mainstream social scientists are hampered by an uncritical or at least in sufficiently critical embrace of a certain natural science model 15 The prestige of the natural sciences continues to haunt even the most historically inclined social science fields One of the most difficult obstacles facing a dialogue between history and the social sciences is this entrenched belief that some form of natural science model is the royal road to truth in the study of social life 17Then he ets into the three temporalities of social science Comparative method is the standard alternative to mainstream statistical methods when the number of cases is in sufficiently large Historical sociologists have virtually always had to make careers in departments where they were surrounded by skeptical positivity s vigilantly on uard against humanistic tendencies 82 Historical sociology needs to adopt the much subversive eventful notion of temporality 83 Sociology was born under the sign of teleology events in some historical present are actually explained by events in the future The entire modernization school of social science was based on such a teleological conception of temporality But the teleological fallacy is also widespread in the work of many historical sociologists who regard their work as arising out of an uncompromising critiue of modernization theory 84 His examples A He dismisses Immanuel Wallerstein as essentially taking an astronomical analogy for understanding the world system which evacuates not just agency but any sense of contingency where all events just flow out of the potentialities inherent in the social system B Charles Tilly committed the fallacy of transmuting fixed socio eographical difference in social organization into putative stages in the linear development of the abstract master process of urbanization pursuing the notion that acts of political contest action arise from radual evolutionary changes in large and anonymous social processes rather than the idea that changes in political regimes reconfigure and Bourdieus Secret Admirer in the Caucasus give new meaning to existing social networks and cleavages thereby creating new collective identities 91 C Theda Skocpol assumes that her threereat social revolutions are in fact a uniform class of objects overned by identical causal laws 96 whereas in fact th. Torians do not think of themselves as theorists they know something social scientists do not how to think about the temporalities of social life On the other hand while social scientists’ treatments of temporality are usually clumsy their theoretical sophistication and penchant for structural accounts of social life could offer much to historiansRenowned for his work at the crossroads of .