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Back to the Future: The Origins and Return of Sociology as the Scientific Study of Societal Development
Unformatted Document Text:  12 12 eventually moved to Ghana where he died. 45 As he brilliantly argued in his landmark Black Reconstruction, Dubois confronted a belated and misshapen version of the Industrial Revolution: For most Afro-Americans the Industrial Revolution came belatedly with the violent overthrow of the semi-feudal southern economy based on slave labor, and it forcibly developed in misshapen form following the abandonment of the post-Civil-War Reconstruction policies. 46 Dubois’ analysis of such arrested development in the midst of the most advanced industrial nation in the world 47 and of its profound social impact on the whole of the United States, provided a critical early contribution to the study of the system of colonialism. 48 Weber, born in 1864 in Germany, studied law and completed a dissertation on medieval trading companies in Italy and Spain. He was appointed to a political economy chair at Freiburg in 1894, and then at Heidelberg in 1896. During these early years, We ber wrote a comprehensive analysis of the agrarian problems of the German east as well as significant essays on the German stock exchange and on the social basis of the decline of Latin antiquity. He also actively participated in the political life of Germany as a member of the left leaning Protestant Social Union. A nervous breakdown interrupted his scholarly work from 1898 and until 1904. Thanks to an inheritance in 1907, he remained a private scholar, mostly in Heidelberg, until his death. The broad scope of his writings 45 Biographical information taken from Marable (1987). 46 Dubois (1992) provides a description of these events that can be paraphrased as follows: The abandonment of Reconstruction policies following the Hayes-Tilden compromise of 1876 led to the removal of the occupying northern troops from the south and resulted in the (re-)imposition of segregation enforced by white supremacist terror. The “Jim Crow” south prevented the growth of black entrepreneurialism (and especially of a class of free black farmers) as well as the growth of black industrial employment, leading to the massive exodus of Afro-Americans toward northern urban centers where they became a displaced industrial underclass. 47 Bairoch (1997) places England as the leading industrial nation until 1860 and the United States since. The incongruity of colonial semi-feudal exploitation taking place at the heart of the leading industrial nation led Dubois to develop his critical concept of “double-consciousness”, first mentioned in Souls of Black Folk. 48 Many of Dubois’ themes were reprised in later literature on the social and economic impact of colonialism such as Cesaire’s Discourse on Colonialism.

Authors: Hansen, Xavier.
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background image
12
12
eventually moved to Ghana where he died.
45
As he brilliantly argued in his landmark Black
Reconstruction, Dubois confronted a belated and misshapen version of the Industrial
Revolution: For most Afro-Americans the Industrial Revolution came belatedly with the
violent overthrow of the semi-feudal southern economy based on slave labor, and it
forcibly developed in misshapen form following the abandonment of the post-Civil-War
Reconstruction policies.
46
Dubois’ analysis of such arrested development in the midst of
the most advanced industrial nation in the world
47
and of its profound social impact on the
whole of the United States, provided a critical early contribution to the study of the system
of colonialism.
48
Weber, born in 1864 in Germany, studied law and completed a dissertation on
medieval trading companies in Italy and Spain. He was appointed to a political economy
chair at Freiburg in 1894, and then at Heidelberg in 1896. During these early years,
We
ber
wrote a comprehensive analysis of the agrarian problems of the German east as well as
significant essays on the German stock exchange and on the social basis of the decline of
Latin antiquity. He also actively participated in the political life of Germany as a member
of the left leaning Protestant Social Union. A nervous breakdown interrupted his scholarly
work from 1898 and until 1904. Thanks to an inheritance in 1907, he remained a private
scholar, mostly in Heidelberg, until his death. The broad scope of his writings
45
Biographical information taken from Marable (1987).
46
Dubois (1992) provides a description of these events that can be paraphrased as follows: The abandonment
of Reconstruction policies following the Hayes-Tilden compromise of 1876 led to the removal of the
occupying northern troops from the south and resulted in the (re-)imposition of segregation enforced by
white supremacist terror. The “Jim Crow” south prevented the growth of black entrepreneurialism (and
especially of a class of free black farmers) as well as the growth of black industrial employment, leading to
the massive exodus of Afro-Americans toward northern urban centers where they became a displaced
industrial underclass.
47
Bairoch (1997) places England as the leading industrial nation until 1860 and the United States since. The
incongruity of colonial semi-feudal exploitation taking place at the heart of the leading industrial nation led
Dubois to develop his critical concept of “double-consciousness”, first mentioned in Souls of Black Folk.
48
Many of Dubois’ themes were reprised in later literature on the social and economic impact of colonialism
such as Cesaire’s Discourse on Colonialism.


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