By Andrew Wernick

This publication bargains an exhilarating reinterpretation of Auguste Comte, the founding father of French sociology. Andrew Wernick presents the 1st in-depth critique of Comte's suggestion of faith and its position in his considering on politics, sociology and philosophy of technology. He locations Comte's principles in the context of post-1789 French political and highbrow historical past, and of recent philosophy, specifically postmodernism. Wernick relates Comte to Marx and Nietzsche as seminal figures of modernity and examines key positive aspects of contemporary and postmodern French social thought, tracing the inherent flaws and disintegration of Comte's process.

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Will reestablish order in society' (i:41±2). To situate the rise of sociology in such terms, of course, is already to be in its register. Indeed, to complete the circle, the diagnosis of the `crisis' which Comte proffers ± centring on the social instability produced by unresolved theoretico-ideological con¯ict ± is not only already sociological. 30 As a crucial component of that path, sociology, in turn, prescribes the institution (via an elaborate and universal system of education) of Philosophie positive.

These concern the relation of positiviteÂ, respectively, to truth, to nonscience and to practice. Science and truth Regarding the ®rst, Comte took as given that any positive science must rigorously proceed from sense data. But whereas for Bacon systematic observation and experiment were the royal road to epistemological certitude, and could get behind phenomena to their true nature and causes, Comte rejected as inconsistent with such phenomenalism any clinging to it of an epistemologically `absolute' point of view.

Therewith was wrecked the uneasy dualism of natural and moral philosophy which, throughout the long period during which the physical sciences had struggled to emerge, had provided a compromise form in which the old `theological synthesis' had been able, in league with a military±monarchical polity, to maintain its intellectual and social rule (iv:244±8). To found sociology as a positive science, in other words, would necessarily bring to a head the crisis in thought that had been brewing since the revival of natural science in medieval Europe, a crisis that could only be resolved by positivising, completely and coherently, the prevailing mode of theorising as such.

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