Have Historical Sociologists Forsaken Theory?


sociological theory, history/theory relationship, epistemological issues


With the re-emergence of historical sociology as a dominant focus of inquiry has come a renewed interest in more general methodological, theoretical, and epistemological issues that have long occupied debates about the relationship between history and theory. A recently published article by Edgar Kiser and Michael Hechter brings to the fore several core themes in these debates. Kiser and Hechter claim that comparative historical sociologists not only have turned against general theory but theories in general. The authors argue that these conclusions are based on a narrow definition of the enterprise of historical sociology and on an attempt to confine the definition of theory to general laws. In this article, they first demonstrate that historical sociologists have not forsaken theory. Next, they articulate the dilemmas that general theories defined as general laws pose for historical analysis, and finally, they delineate what methodologically selfconscious historical sociologists have identified as the core elements of a temporally grounded historical sociology.

Original Publication Citation

Quadagno, Jill and Stan J. Knapp. 1992. “Have Historical Sociologists Forsaken Theory? Some Thoughts on the History/Theory Relationship.” Sociological Methods and Research 20: 481-507.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Sociological Methods and Research




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor