The reconciliation between History and Comparison

Jürgen Schriewer


Since its definition as a method considered as ‘scientific’, towards the end of the 19th century, the comparative method in the social sciences has relied on the principle of causality. In shaping this conception of comparative methodology, the example of the natural sciences and the impact of the orthodox philosophy of science have always been crucial. However, in contrast to scientistic assumptions of this kind, this article refers to far-reaching paradigm shifts and theoretical reorientations that are associated with the emergence of interdisciplinary theory programs on 'self-organization', 'autopoiesis' and 'complex causality'. The article is aimed, then, at delineating an alternative approach to comparative analysis, i.e. an approch that promises to take more adequately into account the complex causal relationships that are characteristic of macrosocial configurations, as well as the irrevocably historical nature of the social world.


Comparative method; causality; complexity; self-organisation; theory of self-referential social systems; function; configuration



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