A study of the early history of Indian sociology reveals two distinct trends: its appropriation of the principles, logic and methods characterising colonial knowledge and an ‘orientalist’ perspective; and the opposing tendency to critique and reject Western categories of knowledge. This second strand was especially critical of the application of Western methods, categories and concepts for studying an entity as historically and culturally disparate as Indian society. Conceptualising Man and Society demonstrates these opposing tendencies and ideological tensions in the writings of early Indian sociologists while exploring their socio-anthropological, cognitive and methodological approaches to the study of Indian society.
The book analyses different facets and concerns of five early Indian sociologists and social anthropologists: Radhakamal Mukerjee, G. S. Ghurye, D. P. Mukerji, Nirmal Kumar Bose, and Ramkrishna Mukherjee. These scholars were interested in larger sociological and philosophical issues like tradition, values, community, person and personality, and the vital concept of man, which they considered an integral part of Indian social reality. Their writings on the ontological and ethical nature of man are not simply a matter of historical curiosity, but are relevant and important for contemporary thought and politics. Most importantly, they critiqued the dominant knowledges of their times. Their work alerts us to the crucial question: what should be the sociology of the present?
Moving away from a historical perspective, this study of early sociologists explores the variations in theory, and cognitive and methodological profile of early Indian sociology itself. At the same time, it highlights the contemporary and radical elements in their writings, which remain theoretically relevant even today. This valuable text will be useful for students and scholars of Indian sociology and social anthropology.
Pradip Kumar Bose is former professor of sociology at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta.