Peter J. Martin
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On the retreat from collective concepts in sociology
in Human agents and social structures
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This chapter considers a general movement in which the collective concepts established by the early pioneers of modern sociological thought have been reconsidered in the light of both theoretical critique and empirical results. Max Weber wishes to separate the sociological from other perspectives, and thus to establish its distinctiveness as a rigorous mode of analysis. It may be useful, for example for legal reasons, to treat collectivities such as 'states, associations, business corporations and foundations' as if they were individual persons. The chapter argues that the quest for 'sociological knowledge', the collective concepts which were developed in the early phase of modern sociological thought have been found to be theoretically and empirically problematic. It discusses some of the 'collective concepts' central to the conventional sociological discourse is a reformulation of these in terms of general processes of symbolic representation and of enactment.

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