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Metaphor and History
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The primary purpose of Metaphor and History is to explain the sources and contexts of the Western idea of social development. Nisbet explores the concept of social change across the whole range of Western culture, from ancient Greece to the present day. He does not see the idea of social development as a nineteenth century phenomenon or a by-product of the idea of biological evolution.Instead, Nisbet finds the metaphor of organic growth and the analogy of the life cycle--among the oldest in the history of human thought--embedded in the pronouncements of sages, historians, and social scientists from Heraclitus and Aristotle to Comte, Marx, Spengler, Toynbee, Berdyaev, and Sorokin. He relates the classic Greek metaphor of growth, applied to society; the Christian epic, with its substance in the fusion of Hebrew and Greek ideas; and ideas of progress, natural history, evolution, and sociological functionalism.This book may be considered the "biography of a metaphor" of social development, one that has persisted through two and a half millennia of Western European history. A sociologist's view of history, this is a work at once of synthesis and of exploration of the premises and foundations of social evolution and social change.
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Robert A. Nisbet was Albert Schweitzer Professor Emeritus at Columbia University, and adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He was a fellow of the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of numerous books, including Tradition and Revolt, The Sociological Tradition, The Degradation of the Academic Dogma and Conservatism (all available from Transaction).

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