Social Physics, by Auguste Comte (1798

French philosopher and father of sociology; the first
technocrat; wanted sociology to be queen of social sciences,
guiding science like a benevolent king or Machiavellian
advisor, lived through Napoleon I and III and Second
Republic (1848)
Social Physics, by Auguste Comte (1798-1857)
Book VI of Cours de Philosophie Positive (1830-1842), In Auguste Comte and
Positivism: The Essential Writings (Edited by Gertrud Lenzer)
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975.
Book report by Rich Hogan
In explaining the need for a positivist social science (sociology), Comte argues
that sociology can synthesize the elements of order and progress, which “the ancients
used to suppose … to be irreconcilable” (p. 197). In fact, Comte argues, “No real order
can be established, still less can it endure, without progress, and no great progress can be
accomplished if it does not tend to the consolidation of order” (p. 197).
Comte lays out the basic principles of positivist science (deductive theory and
inductive proof: see chapter 3) and then treats order (social statics—rooted in morality,
family, and ultimately government: see chapter 5) and change (social dynamics—rooted
in economy but accommodated if not regulated by government: see chapter 6). Most
important, in chapter 1 he outlines his evolutionary theory of society: society evolves
from theological stasis (stability: stage 1) to metaphysical anarchy (change: stage 2) and,
finally, to positivist science (the synthesis of order and change: stage 3).
In this regard, Comte provides the basis for social science and positivist
sociology, as it came to dominate the Western world (particularly England, France,
Germany, and the U.S.). His focus on ideas (or, more accurately, on the basis for
determining socially acceptable “truth”—theology, metaphysics, or positivism ) provides
an alternative to biologically based “social darwinism” (see Spencer) and paves the way
for Durkheim’s analysis of social statics/dynamics in material and nonmaterial “social
facts,” which ultimately led to Durkheim’s theory of solidarity and social change (see
Division of Labor). Comte’s concern with the problem of order and change set the
intellectual (and political) agenda for Parsonian structural functionalism (which
dominated sociology in the U.S. between World War II and the 1960s (actually, well into
the 1970s, and it’s influence is still evident)). In this regard, American sociologists of the
1950s considered Comte the “father” of sociology.