Weathering a Storm of Change
What sort of person would invent sociology? Certainly someone living in times of momentous change. Comte (1798-1857) grew up in the wake of the French Revolution, which brought a sweeping transformation to his country. And if that wasn’t sufficient, another revolution was under way as factories were sprouting up across continental Europe, recasting the lives of the entire population. Just as people enduring a storm cannot help but think of the weather, so those living during Comte’s turbulent era became keenly aware of the state of society. Drawn from his small hometown by the bustle of Paris, Comte was soon deeply involved in the exciting events of his time. More than anything else, he wanted to understand the human drama that was unfolding all around him. Once equipped with knowledge about how society operates, Comte believed, people would be able to build for themselves a better future. He divided his new discipline into two parts: how society is held together (which he called social statics), and how society changes (social dynamics). From the Greek and Latin words meaning “the study of society,” Comte came to describe his work as sociology.