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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Main Currents in Sociological Thought: This is the first of Raymond Aron’s magisterial two-volume treatment of the sociological tradition–perhaps the definitive work of its kind.

The second volume treating Durkheim, Pareto, and Weber is scheduled to appear in spring More than a work of reconstruction, Aron’s study is, at its deepest level, an engagement with the question of modernity: What constitutes th This is the first of Raymond Aron’s magisterial two-volume treatment of the sociological tradition–perhaps the definitive work of its kind.

What constitutes the essence of the new modern order that, having emerged in the eighteenth century, still forms the categories of our experience, sweeping us along toward an unknown destination? With his usual scrupulous fairness, Aron looks to the major social thinkers to discern how they answered this pressing question.

Volume 1 explores three traditions: A foreword by the eminent French philosopher Pierre Manent highlights Main Currents as a unique contribution to political philosophy as well as the history of sociological thought, while Daniel J.

Classical Sociological Thought – Course Unit – University of Coimbra

Mahoney and Brian C. Anderson provide an introduction situating Main Currents within the corpus of Aron’s work as a whole. Etapaa work is essential reading for philosophers, historians, sociologists, and political scientists. Paperbackpages. Published March 2nd by Routledge first published Main Currents in Sociological Thought 1. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Main Currents in Sociological Thoughtplease sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Main Currents penswmento Sociological Thought. Lists with This Book. This book sees Aron translated once again into wonderful English. The engaging French sociologist presents here an educational and erudite exegesis upon the primary sociological output of a handful of French and German ws in that ineluctably modern field: Montesquieu, Comte, Marx, and Tocqueville, concluding with an overview of how the great revolutionary wave of was perceived by the last three thinkers named above.

As Etapas do Pensamento Sociológico

The opening section on Montesquieu whets your appetite for reading the This book sees Aron translated once again into wonderful English. The opening section on Montesquieu whets your appetite for reading the eighteenth century thoughts of this fascinating man.

Aron makes a strong and persuasive case for considering the French aristocrat as one of the founders of sociology, though he stood as a precursor to Auguste Comte, who has generally been attributed with creating the social science for which he coined the pensamentto. Aron is a pure pleasure to read, and he makes his way through Montesquieu’s impressively thorough The Spirit of the Lawsinterpreting the manner in which the latter, through its detailed assessment of causal forces and the legislated order that arises from their impetus, explicates the diversity of human institutions and memes that prevail across the settled globe in both what and how the governmental forms of republic, monarchy, and despotism produce uponand are produced bythe etzpas constituents who comprise their respective populaces—no small part of which was inherence for liberty and equality in their essential orders and conditions.

The learned Frenchman left few stones unturned in his societal-based quest, examining economics, science, industry, climate, land, tradition, etaas, and warfare in his efforts to assemble these variegated parts into a whole. And that whole makes no claims to universality, or having assessed the past raykond to predict the future; Montesquieu, in Aron’s presentation, was a cautious man, inclined to merely make suggestions, mostly of the negative sort, to potential readers placed to try and effect a difference.

Montesquieu’s conservative nature meant that he proffered no utopias, saw no historic current directing mankind towards a conjoined civilizational endpoint; he merely worked empirical knowledge in order to make inductive and deductive reasonings about how human societies came to be so diversely constituted, with the political always uppermost in his mind.

And, frankly, in the opinion of both Aron and this reader, to set such prudent goals within a work of this type possesses itself of a hale wisdom that future sociologists might have done well to imitate. Speaking of which, the man whom many believe to be the true founder of sociology is the French thinker Auguste Comte, who not only provided the name for the social science but also developed and espoused Positivismthe positive science, which was to fuel the creative mental engines of so many intellectuals throughout the nineteenth century.

And science was Comte’s preferred prism for filtering the various composite properties of society through in determining how human beings operate, both singly and at the community aon national level. Comte was a prodigious thinker and writer, considerably influenced by and drawing upon the work of Saint-Simon, and Aron works his way through the lengthy corpus, approaching Comte’s writings from different time periods and differing top level considerations. Whereas Montesquieu was concerned with the political, covering the whole in order to determine why man proved himself such a diverse creature, Comte collated that vast diversity in order to assemble it into a unified whole, a means for explaining every aspect of human behavior across the spectrum of both the physical world and time; for Comte was one of the first to consider history as a eaymond movement across the centuries driving humankind towards a unifying endpoint.

Violence, the enduring plague of mankind, would also fall to the wayside: Comte’s later works explicitly condemned the propensity for and future civilizational potentialities within such enduring aggressive actions as slavery, colonization, and warfare.

Perhaps spurred by travails and disappointments within his personal and private life, in his latter period Comte would come to view himself as, more or less, the high priest of a pseudo-religious Positivistic Humanism that, having synthesized the various sciences, would be regnant around the globe, lifting the world’s peoples and nations via the power of progressive historical currents to a new era of causal understanding, prosperity, and concurrence—the unifying of an array of differentiated temporal societies by means of a widely-spread, transcendent love for that very unity and respect for the natural law unveiled and utilizable through widely-understood science that would serve to temper man’s egoistic feelings and promote those that were unselfish.


Not the most abhorrent of utopian dreams by any means, but one that, like all of the others, nonetheless failed to materialize. Yet whatever the endpoint limitations of Comte’s impressively detailed thought, he was a man of genius, and he spread his mental tendrils into such a broad field of subjects that even his lesser works contain much that would prove worthy of enduring study. The meatiest portion of the book is that of Aron’s presentation of Marx.

Right from the start, the author states his understanding of the infamous German doomsayer of capitalism: It is really no more difficult to present Marx’s leading ideas than those of Montesquieu or Comte; if only there were not so many millions of Marxists, there would be no question at all about what Marx’s leading ideas are or what is central to his thought.

By necessity, Aron was limited in how much of Marx’s prodigious output he was able to bring to the table, and in his determination it is in the mature work of the German thinker that Marx’s sociological ideas can be found in their most complete and evolved form. In particular, the later writings evince the extensive understanding of economics that Marx had amassed, and which he deemed important to providing the requisite scientific rigor to his explication of why capitalism was certain to be utterly undone by the contradictions rife within its constituted systemic makeup.

For Marx, the material world was what mattered, the theatre in which history unfolded in order to fulfill its purpose by moving human societies, through dialectical processes, to the point wherein, with the overcoming of capitalism by the proletariat and its subsequent stateless communism, the class conflict that had perdured as the principal societal element across the span of human existence would finally be negated in this penultimate dialectical synthesis.

Aron treats Marx seriously, noting the transplanted German’s great mind, that Aron has the benefit of critiquing from the vantage point of hindsight, and that some of what has not arisen that Marx foresaw can be appended with the modifier yet. With that said, the author painstakingly analyses Marx’s output via the approaches of economics, philosophy, and sociology—and through them finds errors or ambiguities that limit its effectiveness as the complete system of societal understanding that Marx deemed it to be.

Indeed, it is by these means that Aron espies the major problem with Marx’s methodology: Marx was furthermore continually shifting from analysis to polemic and moral condemnation, and thus the entirety of his work took on the tones of the messianic and prophetic—oracular garb that ill-suited the more austere, dispassionate, and thorough analysis of such as the methods of capitalist forces and relations of production.

While Marx was strongly indebted to Hegel’s self-resolving endpoint historicism and the dialectic, Aron hints that elements of the latter’s metaphysics may have perhaps left subtle traces when the borrower believed he had expunged the whole.

It is difficult to compress the superb exploration undertaken by Aron within a few paragraphs of a partitioned review, but among the primary points that the author advanced was that Marx had made the contradictory and antagonistic nature of capitalism, its alienating properties and inhering drive to the revolution that would overthrow it, immanent within its historical advent. However, in Aron’s calculation, Marx failed, on several fronts, to convincingly prove that this central property, and its attendant and necessary outgrowths, were actually as he had proclaimed them.

Firstly, the principal source of labour’s alienated state, that the surplus value was expropriated by the capitalist class, was not only determined in error as set against technological advance and productivity increase, but Aron also shows that a surplus value will always exist and be deprived of the labourer, simply because there is no other way to enable the accumulative mechanism inherent to any manner of progressive and industrialized society; while the claim that a capitalist society, due to income distribution inequities and distortions, was incapable of absorbing its own production has been proven wrong now, to an increase in output of an order of magnitude, for well over a century.

Additionally, Marx was mistaken in holding that the political could be entirely reduced to the economic, and Aron states why this is not the case—no matter the economic and social regime set in place, the political problem will perdure in its own stead.

Nor was it possible to define a political regime solely through the class alleged to be exercising power. What’s more, the author undertakes to show how the elements of the capitalist infrastructure and superstructure, as described by Marx, were confusingly capable of being part of both when their isolated property in each respectively was assumed; he also laid out how Marx’s proclamation of the revolutionarily derived stateless society was mythological in nature.

In the proletariat Marx confused that class—a great mass, aroj majority populace of the globe—with that of the economic, political, and societal mastery of the capitalists, who were but few in number; thus the proletariats who would od the dictatorship of the latter would be a select group of individuals performing the roles of a political party.

Furthermore, Aron sets out the basic impossibility of an industrial civilization being able to operate without some manner of governing—that is, organizing—centralization. As this would be resigned to a small percentage of the general populace, there was no way that Marx could foresee how such individuals would operate once they had the levers of power and control within their hands.

Rather, Marx’s revolution would see one state structure being replaced by another. Finally, all of this was sewn together to present Aron’s determination that the capitalist contradictions xron not show the latter’s inevitable collapse; and this was only to be expected considering that Marx, situated in time as he was, was pennsamento capable of observing the capitalist state in its originary form—in a certain phase of development, in etapax particular eyapas economic configuration, and with what that implied for industrial society as a disparate sociologicoo.

In addition, socciologico the concept of ideology as it was envisioned by Marx, Aron pressed that the very class-bound limitations that such ideologies imposed upon their possessors would have had the same inhibiting and distorting effect upon Marx himself, calling into question his ability to accurately perceive the multifarious and class-crossed operations of the capitalist system—indeed, this ideological conflict could only be resolved by a professed skepticism from all sides of the argument, which would bring attempts to uncover the truth to an impasse.


The above really only touches upon Aron’s calmly methodical and relentless interpretation and questioning of Marx’s extensive ideation as regards capitalism and its self-inscribed negatory fate. What’s more, the fact that he respects Marx as a great eo whose genius is never in question is both a nice touch and deepens his critique.

While I’ve never accepted Marx’s utopian historic envisioning—and, really, I’m a slaphappy pumpkin-humping simp compared to Herr Frazzlebeard—I regard his intellectual prowess as formidable and his works doubtless filled with much that one could profit from ingesting. Unfortunately, the ambiguity induced by a significant amount of that prodigious output meant that his foundational thought could be led in many directions by creatively intelligent successors.

Aron pursues a few of them—Lukacs, Lenin, Stalin, Kautsky—to show how each fervently believed that they had grasped the truth of Marx’s intent while also endeavoring to affirm what a fruitless effort it is to try and gauge which of these strains the Germanic original would embrace had he lived to experience them.

Montesquieu was sociology from the political standpoint, Comte that of science—with Marx the exemplar of that social science from the economic, all that remained was for Aron to bring in the sociologist of the democratic reality: I don’t know if it is because I have read a fair bit of Tocqueville’s writing and comparatively little of the other three, but, again as with the author, I found myself impressed anew with the great liberal French thinker.

Aron considers the man through his two principal works: The latter borrowed much of his methodology from Montesquieu and, as with that predecessor, his primary point of focus for his sociological methods was the political.

In particular, Tocqueville was determined to understand democracy, which he saw as the political system of the West European future—framed within the question, so applicable to his own era, of why was America proven to be so liberal as set against a France which perdured in struggling to maintain that same liberty?

Tocqueville came from the Norman aristocracy, and had lost several family members to the Guillotine—and his works continually display that antagonism between his heart, which firmly believed in the hierarchical gradations between enlightened noble souls and the leveling tendencies of the material-minded commoner, and his head, which accepted that democracy’s promotion of sociologcio greatest good for the greatest number, upheld by its twin pillars of freedom and equality—delicate balancing act those these two prove to be—was not only accretional but desirable as a political system.

And again, as per Montesquieu, Tocqueville collected the parts into a whole in order to explain—via climate, land, laws, customs, manners, religion—the diversity of democratic memes in the Old and New World. In America the Frenchman found several realities that explained democratic success in that country: As against this, Tocqueville beheld a France with little tradition of freedoms except as espoused by the aristocracy against absolutist monarchs; and that aristocracy was crippled during the Revolutionary terror.

The French political parties were also far more ideological than their American counterparts, and the clashes between rich and enlightened groups often reduced the French legislature to paralysis—at which point a single individual would arise to claim sole power and actually get things done.

Catholic France was distinct from Protestant America as well, in that the Spirits of Religion and Freedom worked in opposition, instead of accordance; the Catholic church invariably aligned itself with the forces of monarchial reaction.

The United States also reconciled itself with industrial capitalism far more readily—as everybody had a job that provided pay, work itself was never looked down upon, whereas France continued to be plagued by the elitist beliefs of its past raympnd, landowning hierarchy, though it had been permanently laid low.

Indeed, Aron saw in Tocqueville a democratic analyst of the first rank. He was well aware of the endemic perils to that system of the tyranny of the majority and the general tendency for the populace to increasingly favor equality eapas freedom—even equality in slavery, if it came to that—and hence the lurking peril rqymond the demagogue and potential despot. He saw democratic societies as restless, materialistic, and socially conservative.

Revolutions raon wars would both be eschewed, as in each the average citizen could tally far too much that he stood to lose as compared arpn the ineffable gains of victory—but, especially as regards the latter, when required to participate a democratic society would throw itself into it with everything it had.

Karl Marx by Raymond Aron

He discerned the issue of race as the great problem facing American democratic freedom and equality, and deemed the only solution either a strict segregation or a full integration—and that the former, chafing against American democratic pensakento, would then lead to ruinous violence or the latter.

What I marvel at is how sound Tocqueville’s understandings and cautions were, and how relevant they remain today. In particular, his warning that any turn to ideology by either of the American political parties and Canadian, I’d add would cause a breakdown of the federal governing system is something I deem to have transpired—or at least been initiated— today, with the Republican Party adhering to a radical market ideology that it mistakes for conservatismwhen the latter etaps never be reconciled to the former.

Tocqueville also predicted that if an aristocracy is ever to be reestablished in America, it will be by Captains of Industry —combine the monetary and political clout of corporations and their executives with the increasing tendency to pass along political offices from one generation of a family name to another, ddo this warning might be one raymonv particularly keep in mind going forward.

View all 12 comments. This book taught me a lot about early sociologists, and gave me the impression of a world where sociology was an exciting, almost sociplogico, emerging land in the republic of letters.

Rather than the mundane picture of contemporary sociology, they pushed interesting reversals of intuition: In many cases, Montesquieu directly attributed the temperaments of men, their sensibility, their way of This book taught me a lot about early sociologists, and ss me the impression of a world where sociology was an exciting, almost mystical, emerging land in the republic of letters.

In many cases, Montesquieu directly attributed the temperaments of men, their sensibility, their way of life, to climate.