From Theocracy to Sociolatry: Louis de Bonald and the Reactionary Origins of Social Science
Bonald (1754-1830) was a counter-revolutionary ideologist and theorist from the Midi whose anti-democratic "science de societe" was one of the prime sources for Saint-Simon's and Auguste Comte's elaboration of what the latter named "sociology" in the 1830s. Despite Bonald's theocratic prejudices and preference for Europe's Old Regime and his denigration of many aspects of the changes embodied by "modernity," his "science" contains surprising, often profound insights into the nature of "traditional" authority, community and the institutional ptrerequisites of the fully human condition. These insights rest upon his view of humanity's acculturation qua linguistic dependence. In many ways, Bonald anticipated later structuralist and functionalist perspectives on society even though he derived these from his transformation of the philosophies of the (among others) the Scholastics, Malebranche, and Leibniz. He represents the intriguing case of a thinker who, in certain key respects, developed a sociocentric ideology that tried to point "back to the future." Bonald's anti-modern social science was an influence not only on Comte, but also on Le Play and Durkheim.
Keywords: Louis de Bonald, Origin of Social Science in France, Tradition and Modernity
Prof. W. Jay Reedy
Professor of Humanities and Social Science, History Department, Bryant University