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American Sociological Association: Randall Collins Award Statement
Randall Collins’ book offers us all at once perhaps the most comprehensive history of world philosophy yet written, a classic of comparative historical, and cultural sociology, a landmark in the sociology of knowledge, and the corner stone of a virtually new field, the sociology of philosophy. As a comparative history of philosophy, The Sociology of Philosophies covers ancient China, India, and Greece, medieval Islam and Israel, Christendom and Japan, and modern Europe. Collins employs sociological tools equally far-ranging, including universalistic and historically specified propositions, network models and historical narrative, cross-cultural and motivational generalizations. Among the works innovations are a mess-level focus on the social structure of philosophical communities themselves, a macroscopic focus and the interrelations of communities across time and space, and a microscopic theory of scholarly creative energies. Although the title’s claim for a philosophy of intellectual life seems to me overextended, a claim for the first general sociology of philosophy ever may be made, indeed a claim for a sociology of philosophies with enormous implications for theorizing about intellectual life more generally—in scholarship. Science and so on. Little is to be gained by saying much more about the book to an audience that should feel compelled to enter its pages.