How attractive do you find the role which Comte prescribed for sociologists?
European Enlightenment played a significant part in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when it marked a transformation in the cultural perspectives of the European intellectuals. During this period of time, the science of society gradually emerged through the use of logical and critical methods to replace the idea of philosophical and religious believes to more scientific ones.
Auguste Comte (1798-1857), born in Montepeiller was the inventor of the word ‘sociology’ meaning the science of society. The study of society as an historical and empirical object were emphasised most during the eighteenth-century France and Scotland. Historical and scientific modes of thought and examination shifted the existing discussion of political and moral philosophy away from standard concerns with the transhistorical to a grasp of the specificity of the social. This lead to the works of Montesquieu, Ferguson and Millar, whom exemplified a sociology in the making. Sociologists often focus their writing on substantive sociological themes such as inequality, social conflict and cohesion, the development of the division of labour and private property etc., however it is the emphasis on human nature as the basis of human society and social order which leads to the view of social as the expression of an immanent transhistorical process. Nonetheless, Montesquieu influenced the sociological writings of the Scottish School of Ferguson, Smith and Millar by arguing that “although society presents itself as a chaotic and diverse phenomenon, beneath the surface exists a definite structure comprising regularities of behaviour, institutions and laws” (Swingwood, 2000:5). Hence, it is to be believed that social institutions and processes are therefore the product of significant material conditions which can be established and identified by empirical and historical analysis.