Modern Social & Political Theory c. 1790-1920 Course description

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Modern Social & Political Theory c.1790-1920
Course description
The field of this paper is the history of 19th and early 20th century Europe and America, as seen through the eyes of leading political and social theorists. The central intellectual tradition represented here is that of 19th century European liberalism. It is central because it enjoyed an undoubted cultural hegemony — although Anglophone liberalism, a very different set of ideas, also comes into view. It hinged around the development of ideas of ‘reason’ and ‘rationality’ in constitutional, political and civil law; in religion; and in academic ‘science’. Concomitantly it promoted all that was ‘bourgeois’ at the expense of what was ‘feudal’. This major tradition is represented above all by Hegel, Durkheim and Weber. Standing outside it there were of course a number of alternative points of view: most obviously radicals, romantics and socialists who dissented from, but inevitably engaged with, the hegemonic liberal position, as well as the semi-detached Anglophone tradition already noted. Notwithstanding the catastrophic hiatus inflicted by Fascism, Nazism and world war, and despite talk ca.1990 about ‘post-modernity’ and the ‘death’ of Marx, attempts by later 20th and 21st century writers to theorise society and politics without substantial reference to their 19th and early 20th century forebears have proven largely unsuccessful hitherto. This course seeks to gain some understanding of why this might be so.
So far as the method of study is concerned, it should be stressed that this is a paper for theoretically concerned historians rather than historically aware theorists. Its outer limit is the understanding of the place of ideas and intellectual tradition within societies taken as a whole, i.e. something much larger than the world of texts alone. However, its pragmatic starting point is the study of individual texts and authors deemed to be of outstanding merit and rich in meaning. (What might be called “the regression to Skinner”.) Mid-way between these two poles are the specific con-texts (intellectual, biographical, social, political etc.) from which these authors emerged. The class programme tries to capture both the macro- and microscopic perspectives.
The primary aim of the course is to gain a broad understanding of the subject as a whole, and to this end we shall have five “core” classes with a specified programme (as below). In the last three weeks of term you are required to write one essay of 6-7,000 words, when class meetings are intended to service the needs raised by essay-writing. The title of the essay must be submitted to, and agreed with, the course convenor by the end of 6th week of Hilary term; the essay must be submitted on Monday of 9th week. Essay subjects need not be confined to topics raised in the “core” programme; the essay must however cover at least two distinct subject areas or bodies of literature (for examples of which see the course bibliography below), which may be treated either comparatively or sequentially (or both). Of these subject areas at least one must be taken from Continental Europe. This course makes no linguistic requirement, and the use of sources in translation is entirely legitimate, though command of a European language or languages will of course expand the range of materials open to you.
Class Programme (& titles for oral presentation)
Week 1. Hegel & European Liberalism

  • How significant was Hegel’s distinction between the state and civil society ?

  • What did it mean to be a ‘liberal’ in Europe in the years before 1848 ?

Week 2. Marx & Socialism

  • ‘The premisses from which we begin… are the real individuals, their activity, and the material conditions under which they live.’ (The German Ideology) How good a guide are these premisses to Marx’s thought ?

  • What was ‘socialism’ in the years before 1848 ?

Week 3. Mill & English tradition

  • Was Mill’s idea of liberty the same for men as for women ?

  • Which was more important in shaping English thought in the 19th century: English history or utilitarianism ?

Week 4. Later Liberalism & Socialism

  • Is it fair to describe Weber and/or Durkheim as “new Liberals” in comparison to liberal thought before 1848 ?

  • Was Bernstein’s revisionism a typical product of the European debates over Marxism in the years c.1881-1914 ?

Week 5. Religion & Sociology

  • ‘The states which have arisen, the great laws and structures which they have drawn up, and all the great ideas of the human race have developed chiefly under the influence of Christianity’. (max weber, 1884) Why did Weber attach so much importance to religion in his thought, and how unusual was he in this respect ?

  • Did late 19th and early 20th century sociology represent a new departure in European thought ?

note. Presentations (papers) should last about 10 minutes and no more. They should (a) canvass the principal dimensions of the subject and (b) offer an answer to the question set. Everyone in the class should prepare at least of two papers, which can be used either for presentation, or else as the basis of a response. Responses should be 3-5 minutes (max), trying to highlight possible areas for discussion.
This is not a comprehensive programme, and if there are authors or topics whom you would like to propose for class discussion in weeks 6-8, you should feel free to do so.
Suggestions for preliminary reading (besides texts)
There is no overall survey of 19th and early 20th century social and political theory which is remotely adequate from a historical point of view. There are surveys written from a “historically informed” theoretical standpoint, but these are pretty worthless, so far as we are concerned. — Select from the secondary literature below, and read in parallel with the relevant author’s texts.

S. Avineri, Hegel’s Theory of the Modern State (1972)

T. Pinkard, Hegel: a Biography (2000)

ed. E.K. Bramsted & K. Melhuish, Western Liberalism (1978) Section C

David McLellan, Karl Marx: His Life and Thought (1973) retitled Karl Marx: a

Biography (1995)] [Don’t confuse this with the many other works on Marx by this author]

S. Avineri, The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx (1968)

L. Kolakowski, Main Currents of Marxism (1978) vol.1 ‘The Founders’
F. E. Manuel, The Prophets of Paris: Turgot, Condorcet, Saint-Simon, Fourier, Comte

Richard Reeves, J.S. Mill: Victorian Firebrand (2007) [not as silly as the title suggests]

Stephen Lukes, Durkheim (1973)

W. Logue, From Philosophy to Sociology: the Evolution of French Liberalism 1870-

1914 (1983)
Marianne Weber, Max Weber: a Biography [1926] (1974 tr.)

Wolfgang Mommsen, Max Weber and German Politics [1959] (1984 tr.),

“ “ The Political and Social Theory of Max Weber (1989)
L. Kolakowski, Main Currents of Marxism (1978) vol.2 ‘The Golden Age’

Modern Social and Political Theory

Outline Bibliography
[* = useful general and introductory items]
I. Hegel & European Liberalism

G.W.F. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right (ed. Allen Wood, CUP)

“ “ Lectures on the Philosophy of World History: Introduction (1975) tr. Nisbet,


“ “ Political Writings tr. Knox (1964) or ed. Dickey & Nisbet (1999)

F. Guizot, Lectures on the History of Civilization in Europe [1828] (Penguin ed., 1996)

“ “ History of the Origins of Representative Government in Europe [1820-2]

(Liberty ed., 2002)

B. Constant, Political Writings (1988) ed. B. Fontana

*ed. E.K. Bramsted & K. Melhuish, Western Liberalism (1978) Doc.13; Section C

Secondary Works on Liberalism (a curious mixture!)

*Guido De Ruggiero, The History of European Liberalism [1925] (tr. 1927)

Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism (1927) [= The Free and Prosperous Commonwealth, 1962 ed.]

L. Krieger, The German Idea of Freedom (1957) [use with caution]

I. Berlin, Two Concepts of Liberty (1958)

Blandine Kriegel, The State and the Rule of Law [1979] (tr. 1995)

Pierre Manent, An Intellectual History of Liberalism [1987] (tr. 1994)

R. Bellamy, ‘Idealism and Liberalism in… Guido de Ruggiero’s History of Liberalism’,

Historical Jnl. 1987

G.A. Kelly, The Humane Comedy: Constant, Tocqueville and French Liberalism (1992)

P. Rosanvallon, The Demands of Liberty (2007) cc.3-4, 6-8

On Hegel

ed. C. Butler & C. Seiler, Hegel: the Letters (1984) or T. Pinkard, Hegel: a Biography (2000)

J. Ritter, Hegel and the French Revolution (1956 tr. 1982)

*S. Avineri, Hegel’s Theory of the Modern State (1972) [a good introduction]

G.A. Kelly, Hegel’s Retreat from Eleusis (1978)

C. Taylor, Hegel and Modern Society (1979)

ed. Z. Pelczynski, The State and Civil Society (1984)

S.B. Smith, Hegel’s Critique of Liberalism (1989)

ed. J. Stewart, The Hegel Myths (1996)

P. Franco, Hegel’s Philosophy of Freedom (1999)

*F. Beiser, Hegel (2005)

German Context

R. Aris, History of Political Thought in Germany from 1789 to 1815 (1936)

G.A. Kelly, Idealism, Politics and History: Sources of Hegelian Thought (1969)

F. Beiser, Enlightenment, Revolution and Romanticism (1992)

J.E. Toews, Hegelianism (1984), Parts I-II

T. Pinkard, German Philosophy 1760-1860: the Legacy of Idealism (2002)

NB. English and American conceptions of liberalism are a separate subject.

II. Marx & Socialism

Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844) in Early Writings ed. L. Colletti


The German Ideology Part I, in Early Political Writings ed. J. O’Malley (CUP);

The Communist Manifesto ed. D. McLellan (OUP);

The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte in Surveys from Exile ed. D. Fernbach (Penguin).

“ ‘Preface’ to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859) in Later Political

Writings ed. T. Carver (CUP) [autobiographical]

The Young Hegelians: an Anthology (1983) ed. L. Spelelevich, incl.

F. Engels, ‘Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy’ [1843] [in many editions]

ed. G. Ionescu, The Political Thought of Saint-Simon (1976) or

Henri Saint-Simon 1760-1825: Selected Writings... (1975) tr. & ed. Keith Taylor

P-J. Proudhon, What is Property? [1840] (tr. 1994, Kelley & Smith)

Lorenz von Stein, History of the Social Movement in France 1789-1850 [1850] (tr. 1964)

[better in German, online]

On Marx (& Engels)

*S. Avineri, The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx (1968)

*D. McLellan, Karl Marx: His Life and Thought (1973)

reissued as Karl Marx: a Biography (1995)

[J. Sperber, Karl Marx: a 19th Century Life (2013) is good on social context, less good

on intellectual history]

M. Rubel, Marx without Myth (1975) [biographical chronology]

J. Maguire, Marx’s Theory of Politics (1978)

P. Thomas, Karl Marx and the Anarchists (1980)

M. Rubel, ‘A history of Marx’s “Economics”’, in Rubel on Karl Marx: 5 Essays (1981)

D. Leopold, The Young Karl Marx (2007)


I. Fetscher, ‘Marx on Human Nature’, Social Research 73 [PPE]

L. Coletti, ‘Introduction’ to Marx, Early Writings (Penguin ed., 1975)

H. Mewes, ‘On the concept of politics in the early works of Marx’, Social Research 76

G. Stedman Jones, ‘Engels and the genesis of Marxism’, New Left Review 77

P. Rosanvallon, ‘Marx and Civil Society’ [1978-9] in Democracy Past and Future (2006)

D. Duquette, ‘Marx’s Idealist Critique of Hegel’, Review of Politics 89
On Socialism & Hegelianism

D. McLellan, The Young Hegelians and Karl Marx (1969)

S. Avineri, Moses Hess (1985)

J.E. Toews, Hegelianism (1984) cc. 8-10, Epilogue

P. Pilbeam, French Socialists before Marx (2000)

F.E. Manuel, The New World of Henri Saint-Simon (1956)

L. Kolakowski, Main Currents of Marxism (1978) vol.1, cc.2,4,10
III. J.S. Mill & English tradition
Texts: primary

J.S. Mill, On Liberty, The Subjection of Women in On Liberty and other writings ed. S. Collini


“ “ A System of Logic, Book VI (‘The logic of the moral sciences’)


“ “ Mill on Bentham and Coleridge ed. F.R. Leavis (CUP).

“ “ ‘De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America’ [1835], ‘Democracy in America’ [1840], in

(eg) Collected Works (Toronto, 1977) vol.18

“ “ Autobiography [1853-4/69-70]

ed. A. Pyle, On Liberty: Contemporary Responses (1994)

The Subjection of Women: Contemporary Responses (1995)
On Mill

*Jose Harris, ‘John Stuart Mill’, OxDNB (2004)

*Richard Reeves, J.S. Mill (2007)

J.M. Robson, The Improvement of Mankind: the Social and Political Thought of J.S. Mill


J.C. Rees, John Stuart Mill’s ‘On Liberty’ (1985) ed. G.L. Williams

Alan Ryan, J.S. Mill (1974)

W.E.S. Thomas, J.S. Mill (Past Masters, 1985); The Philosophic Radicals (1979)

M. Cowling, Mill and Liberalism (1963) Part I

Vincent Guillin, Auguste Comte and John Stuart Mill on Sexual Equality (2009)


Lewisohn, ‘Mill & Comte on Social Science’, Jnl. Hist. Ideas [JHI] 1972

J. Annas, ‘Mill & the Subjection of Women’, Philosophy 1977

H.S. Jones, ‘Mill as Moralist’, JHI 1992

F. Wilson, ‘Mill on psychology and moral science’, ed. J. Skorupski, Cambridge Companion

to John Stuart Mill (1998)

T. Ball, ‘The formation of character; Mill’s ethology reconsidered’, Polity 18 (2000)

E.S. Smith, ‘Mill’s Subjection: a re-examination’, Polity 34 (2001)

J. Waldron, ‘Mill on Liberty and the Contagious Diseases Acts’ in edd. N. Urbinati & A.

Zakaras, J.S. Mill’s Political Thought: a Bicentennial Reassessment (2007), esp. pp.22-32
English Tradition

*edd. J. Lively & J. Rees, Utilitarian Logic and Politics (1978) [the debate between Macaulay &

the Benthamites]

J. Burrow, D. Winch & S. Collini, That Noble Science of Politics (1983)

M. Francis & J. Morrow, A History of English Political Thought in the 19th Century (1994)

H. S. Jones, Victorian Political Thought (2000)


Oxford DNB [online] ‘Jeremy Bentham’, ‘James Mill’

L. S[tephen], ‘James Mill’, Dictionary of National Biography [c.1883]

P. Schofield, Utility and Democracy: the Political Thought of Jeremy Bentham (2006)

J. Dinwiddy, Bentham (1989)

H. Sidgwick, ‘Utilitarianism’ [1873], in Essays on Ethics and Method (2000) c.1

J.B. Schneewind, Sidgwick’s Ethics and Victorian Moral Philosophy (1977) cc.4-5, 11-12


P.R. Ghosh, ‘Whig Interpretation of History’ in Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical

Writing (1999) ed. Kelly Boyd

H. Butterfield, The Englishman and his History (1944) I, cc.i, v; II, cc.i-ii

J. Burrow, A Liberal Descent (1981)

Oxford DNB W.E.S. Thomas, ‘Macaulay’

IV. Later European Liberalism...

M. Weber, Political Writings ed. & tr. P. Lassmann & R. Speirs (CUP)

“ “ From Max Weber (Routledge) edd. H.H. Gerth & C. Wright Mills, c.8 ‘Bureaucracy’ “ “ Economy and Society (tr. 1968) Part I cc.1 (§§.16-17), 3, 11

F. Tönnies, Community and Civil Society [1887] (2001)

E. Durkheim, The Division of Labour in Society (1893/1902) tr. W.D. Halls

“ “ Professional Ethics and Civic Morals [1898-1900] tr. C. Brookfield (Routledge)

“ “ ‘Individualism and the Intellectuals’ [1898], in Political Studies 17 (1969)

“ “ ‘The Role of the Universities in the Social Education of the Country’, [1900] in

Minerva 14 (1976)
On Weber

*Marianne Weber, Max Weber: a Biography [1926] (1974 tr.) cc.3-9, 17-21

*W. Mommsen, Max Weber and German Politics [1959] (1984 tr.)

“ “ The Political and Social Theory of Max Weber (1989)

*P. Ghosh, Max Weber and the Protestant Ethic: Twin Histories (2014) [I.5, 7; II.7, 8.v]


L. Scaff, ‘Max Weber and Robert Michels’, American Journal of Sociology 86 (1980-1)

S. Wolin, ‘Max Weber. Legitimation, Method & the Politics of Theory’, Political Theory 9 (1981)

F. Ringer, ‘Max Weber’s liberalism’, Central European History 35 (2002)

D. Kelly, ‘Max Weber and the Rights of Citizens’, Max Weber Studies 4 (2004)

On Durkheim

*Steven Lukes, Durkheim (1973) or Fournier (2007) [below]

D. La Capra, Durkheim: Sociologist & Philosopher (1972/1985)

ed. S. Turner, Emile Durkheim: Sociologist & Moralist (1993)

S. Stedman Jones, Durkheim Reconsidered (2001)

J.C. Alexander & P. Smith (eds.), Cambridge Companion to Durkheim (2005), Part I

Marcel Fournier, Emile Durkheim [2007] (2012)


M. J. Hawkins, ‘Durkheim’s theory of human nature’, Sociological Rev. 1977

M. S. Cladis, ‘Durkheim’s Individual in Society: a sacred marriage?’ Jnl.Hist.Ideas 1992

... & Marxist Socialism


E. Bernstein, The Preconditions of Socialism [1899] (1993) ed. H. Tudor

Fred. Engels, ‘Introduction’ [1895] to Marx, ‘The Class Struggles in France 1848-50’

Rosa Luxemburg, ‘[Social] Reform or Revolution’ [1899], in Rosa Luxemburg Speaks (1970) or

in Selected Political Writings ed. Dick Howard (1971)

Karl Kautsky, Selected Political Writings (1983) ed. & tr. P. Goode

ed. H & J. Tudor, Marxism and Social Democracy: the Revisionist Debate 1896-1898 (1988)

G. Lukács, ‘What is orthodox Marxism ?’ [1919], in Tactics and Ethics [1919] (tr. 1972) or

History and Class Consciousness [1922] (tr. 1971)

Marxist Socialism

*L. Kolakowski, Main Currents of Marxism (1978) vol.2 ‘The Golden Age’

P. Gay, The Dilemma of Democratic Socialism (1952) [Bernstein]

M.B. Steger, The Quest for Evolutionary Socialism (1997) [ditto]

S. Pierson, Marxist Intellectuals and the Working-Class Mentality in Germany 1887-1912


R. Fletcher, Revisionism and Empire: Socialist Imperialism in Germany 1897-1914 (1984)

ed. M. Steger & T. Carver, Engels after Marx (1999)

J.P. Nettl, Rosa Luxemburg (1966)

G.P. Steenson, Karl Kautsky, 1854-1938: Marxism in the Classical Years (1978)

H. Goldberg, The Life of Jean Jaurès (1962)

L. Derfler, Paul Lafargue and the flowering of French Socialism 1882-1911 (1998)

J.D. White, Karl Marx and the Intellectual Origins of Dialectical Materialism (1996) cc.5-8

S.H. Baron, Plekhanov: the Father of Russian Marxism (1963)

Bourgeois” authors

A. Schäffle, The Quintessence of Socialism [1875] (1889)

E. de Laveleye, Le Socialisme contemporain (1881)

*W. Sombart, Socialism and the Socialist Movement [19086] (1909) Part I

M. Weber, ‘Socialism’ [1918] in ed. P. Lassman & R. Speirs, Political Writings (1994)

E. Durkheim, Socialism and Saint-Simon [1928] (1958)

B. Croce, Historical Materialism and the Economics of Karl Marx [1900] (1914)

E. Böhm-Bawerk, Karl Marx and the Close of his System [1896] (1949) ed. P. Sweezy
V. Religion...

M. Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Routledge) tr. Talcott Parsons1

ed. Keith Taylor, Henri Saint-Simon 1760-1825: Selected Writings (1975) Part iv

K. Marx, ‘On the Jewish Question’ (1843) in (eg) Early Writings (Penguin ed., 1975)

Auguste Comte, Early Political Writings ed. H.S. Jones (1998) c.5

ed. G. Lenzer, Auguste Comte and Positivism (1975) pp.442-76

J.S. Mill, Three Essays on Religion (1874)

E. Durkheim, Professional Ethics and Civic Morals [1898-1900] tr. C. Brookfield (Routledge)

T. Veblen, ‘Christian Morals and the Competitive System’ [1910] in Essays in our Changing

Order (1934)

*Marianne Weber, Max Weber: a Biography [1926] (1974) cc.3-9, 17-21 [Weber the man]

*P. Ghosh, Max Weber and the Protestant Ethic: Twin Histories (2014) [intellectual biography]

“ “ ‘Max Weber’s idea of “Puritanism”’, Hist. of European Ideas 29 (2003), also in

A Historian reads Max Weber (2008)

“ “ ‘Some Problems with Talcott Parsons’ Version of The Protestant Ethic’,

Archives Européenes de Sociologie 35 (1994)

H. Lehmann & G. Roth, Weber’s Protestant Ethic (1993)

W. Hennis, Max Weber’s Central Question [1987] (2000); Max Weber’s Science of Man (2000)
Other authors

J.E. Toews, Hegelianism (1984) cc.6-10

D. McLellan, The Young Hegelians and Karl Marx (1969)

F.E. Manuel, The New World of Henri Saint-Simon (1956)

“ “ The Prophets of Paris (1962) cc.3-4, 6

A. Kahan, ‘… How Tocqueville constructed his new moral science in America’, Tocqueville’s

Voyages, ed. Christine Henderson (2014)

Steven Lukes, Durkheim (1973) cc.11, 23 etc.

W.Watts Miller, A Durkheimian Quest: Solidarity and the Sacred (2012) Part I

... & Sociology

E. Durkheim, The Rules of Sociological Method (1895)

M. Weber, Economy and Society [1919-20] (1968) ed. G. Roth & C. Wittich, pp.3-26

W. Windelband, ‘History and Natural Science’ [1895], History and Theory 19 (1980)


P. Besnard, The Sociological Domain: the Durkheimians & the Founding of French Sociology (1983) cc.1-5

*W. Logue, From Philosophy to Sociology (1983)

J.E.S. Hayward, Internat. Rev. Soc. Hist. [IRSH] 1959, ‘Solidarity: the Social History of an

Idea in C19 France’

“ “ IRSH 1961, ‘The Official Philosophy of the 3rd Republic’

G. Weisz, ‘Education and the Civil Utility of Social Science’, Minerva 16 (1978)

S. Barrows, Distorting Mirrors: Visions of the Crowd in Late C19 France (1981)

E. Tiryakian, ‘Durkheim, Mathiez and the French Revolution’, Archives Européenes de

Sociologie 29 (1988)

H.S. Jones, The French State in Question (1993)


W. Lepenies, Between Literature and Science: the Rise of Sociology (1988)

D. Frisby, Sociological Impressionism (1981/92) [Georg Simmel]

ed. W. J. Mommsen & J. Osterhammel, Max Weber & His Contemporaries (1987) esp. cc.2-5, 7


L. Goldman, Past and Present 1987, ‘A Peculiarity of the English?’; Hist.Jnl. 1983, ‘The origins of British “Social Science” ’; ‘Victorian Social Science: from singular to plural’ in ed. M.J. Daunton, The Organization of Knowledge in Victorian Britain (2005)

S. Collini, Hist.Jnl. 1980, ‘Political theory and the science of society’

M. Wheeler-Barclay, ‘Victorian Evangelicalism and the sociology of religion: the career of William Robertson Smith’, Jnl.Hist.Ideas 1993

M. Taylor, Men versus the State: Herbert Spencer and Late Victorian Individualism (1992)

Mark Francis, Herbert Spencer and the Invention of Modern Life (2007) cc.17-18

G.W. Stocking, Victorian Anthropology (1987)

“ “ After Tylor (1995)

[Alia] 2

Dorothy Ross, The Origins of American Social Science (1991)

A. Vucinich, Social Thought in Tsarist Russia: the quest for a general science of society

1861-1917 (1976)
See also relevant materials from weeks III-IV.

1 Please avoid the translation of the Protestant Ethic by Stephen Kalberg (Rothbury/Blackwell, 2002): this is seriously deficient and renders Weber’s meaning much less transparent. The Penguin translation (2003) is fine but it only covers the original, shorter text of 1904-5, not the expanded one of 1920. It is also formatted so poorly as to make continuous reading of the text extremely difficult.

2 I am sure this section could be much expanded: please contribute.

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