Foundations of social modern thought. lecture 1 – introduction

Professor Iván Szelényi: So welcome. This is a course on Foundations of Modern Social Thought. It has a sociology number, a political science number, and a humanities number. And my name is Iván Szelényi. I’m a professor of sociology, a professor of political science, and it is my honor that I can introduce you to some of the Founding Fathers – I’m afraid they are all fathers right, no mothers among them; I will tell you why not – of modern social thought. It’s basically theories, starting from the sixteenth century and ending up in the early twentieth century.
This course is very interdisciplinary. It’s not accidental it has a humanities number, a political science number, and a sociology number. In fact, as we start discussing the foundations of modern science in the sixteenth century there is even no distinction, no sharp distinction, between sciences and social sciences. Right? The first author on our list, Thomas

Hobbes, did a lot of work on optics and has been in a violent controversy with Descartes. So those of you who are in natural sciences are probably familiar with Descartes and his pioneering work on optics. John Locke, for those of you who aspire to become a doctor, was actually studying medicine and performed a surgery on a very well-known English politician. A quite successful surgery, though even today doctors quite don’t know whether this politician survived because of good luck or because of the surgery.
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make, in the early sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth centuries, sciences and social sciences are not separated from each other yet. Jean Jacques Rousseau, a real pain in the neck but an extremely smart guy, he also wrote an important book which dealt with sciences and social studies. It’s really by the kind of late eighteenth century that people are beginning to identify as studying society or human behavior. But even then, until the very last author – what we have here, Emile Durkheim – people identified themselves with a number of approaches, disciplinary approaches. There were social scientists, all right, or philosophers, all right. The difference between philosophy and social science is a very vague one. So they’re beginning to distinguish themselves increasingly from sciences, but they are still multidisciplinary.
Who is Karl Marx, you know? He is a philosopher. He’s an economist. He is a political scientist. Sociologists name him as one of the Founding Fathers of sociology. Max Weber, he identified himself as a legal theorist. He was studying economic history. I think primarily he identified himself, early in life, as an economist, as an economic historian; later in life he began to call himself a sociologist. So the point is, this is a very interdisciplinary course. So one advantage of you to take this course is that you will be getting knowledge, which leads you – which would benefit you, if you are studying sciences. If you want to become a psychologist, if you become an economist or a political scientist or an anthropologist or a philosopher, this list of names will appear on your reading list.
Okay, so that’s I think – I will go – I have many, many slides to show you, and I will try to bring them alive to you a little. So I don’t want to waste too much of my time here, to rush through all this. But let me still speak to some of the details, what I’m sure many of you are particularly interested. First, about the readings. And my first advice is: don’t let yourself to be scared by me. All right? All the readings are on the internet.



Foundations of social modern thought. lecture 1 – introduction