Krishan Kumar is University Professor and William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia, USA.
“The Past in the Present: Mills, Tocqueville and the Necessity of History”
Version of Record online: 6 MAR 2014
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Journal of Historical Sociology
Volume 28, Issue 3, pages 265–290, September 2015
How to Cite
Kumar, K. (2015), “The Past in the Present: Mills, Tocqueville and the Necessity of History”. Journal of Historical Sociology, 28: 265–290. doi: 10.1111/johs.12051
- Issue online: 3 SEP 2015
- Version of Record online: 6 MAR 2014
Historical sociology has achieved a reasonable degree of respectability in the discipline, and there is much interesting work being produced. But a pronounced aspect of much of this work is an indifference to the question of the value of studying the past as a way to understanding the present. This article argues that, rather than trying to outdo the historians by producing “better,” more theoretically sophisticated history, sociologists would better advance the case for historical sociology by showing how any particular historical study helps illuminate contemporary concerns. The article draws upon the writings of C. Wright Mills and Alexis de Tocqueville to show not just the need for historical sociology but also as indications of how this might best be done.