Sociology and Empire: The Imperial Entanglements of A Discipline
The revelation that the U.S. Department of Defense had hired anthropologists for its Human Terrain System project—assisting its operations in Afghanistan and Iraq—caused an uproar that has obscured the participation of sociologists in similar Pentagon-funded projects. As the contributors to Sociology and Empire show, such affiliations are not new. Sociologists have been active as advisers, theorists, and analysts of Western imperialism for more than a century.
The collection has a threefold agenda: to trace an intellectual history of sociology as it pertains to empire; to offer empirical studies based around colonies and empires, both past and present; and to provide a theoretical basis for future sociological analyses that may take empire more fully into account. In the 1940s, the British Colonial Office began employing sociologists in its African colonies. In Nazi Germany, sociologists played a leading role in organizing the occupation of Eastern Europe. In the United States, sociology contributed to modernization theory, which served as an informal blueprint for the postwar American empire. This comprehensive anthology critiques sociology's disciplinary engagement with colonialism in varied settings while also highlighting the lasting contributions that sociologists have made to the theory and history of imperialism.
The chapter traces the history of the sociological thought and institutionalization of the discipline of sociology in the context of the Russian Empire in the second half of the XIX the and the beginning of the XXth century. The authors' main focus is on the entanglement of paradigms of social knowledge and the problem of diversity of the imperial space. The chapter identifies several modalities of refraction and engagement of the imperial diversity in the Russian social thought and later the discipline of sociology: from the learned ignorance of the revolutionary unmaking of the imperial space, the colonialist exclusion of evolutionism and populism, and on to the redefinition of irregular developing society in early twentieth century versions of Russian sociology. The chapter also traces the global circuits of social knowledge and explores how Russian social scientists of the second half of the XIXth century partook in the invention of "traditional society" and how this concept was refracted through the contemporaneous politics of colonialism and imperialism. Finally, the chapter uncovers the origins of institutionalized sociology in the dissenting institutions of higher education: The Russian Higher School of Social Sciences in Paris and the Psycho-Neurological (Bekhterev) Institute in Petersburg; and explores how those institutions refracted the politicized differences of the Russian imperial space.