STS: new book: sociology of philosophies (fwd)

Frances Bolton (PHI) fbolton at
Wed Sep 2 07:44:38 PDT 1998

Review by Steve Fuller

I have just received a copy of the long-awaited _The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change_ by Randall Collins (Harvard University Press, 1998). It weighs in at 1000 pages, but it lives up to its title, providing the institutional and intellectual development of the major philosophical traditions of the East and West.

For anyone interested in the relationship between the spread of ideas, the formation of alliances, and the importance of cultural context, the book will be essential reading. One of the best -- and no doubt controversial -- features of the book is that Collins treats the social and intellectual contexts as basically two sides of the same coin. In simplest terms, the density of a philospher's social network is treated as a rough measure of the complexity of his/her thought (as if one writes to activate a set of nodes in response). This can either have good or bad consequences for the line of thought, depending on other contextual features, such as the political climate, the strength of universities, etc.

In any case, I find the book a real page-turner.

I am also happy to say that this is an unsolicited report. No money has changed hands, and I had nothing to do with the book's publication.

Yours in discourse

Steve Fuller

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