La généralisation dans les sciences historiques

The historical sciences are characterized by the irreducible plurality of the ways objects are constructed and thus produce general assertions. After giving an account of Durkheimian and Weberian critiques of ordinary forms of generalization, the article analyzes the questioning of macrological paradigms that affected the social sciences in the last quarter of the 20th century, mainly by returning to local explanations. However, the self-limitation to a micrological level involves some fearsome constraints. One can demonstrate that the level of generality reached by sociologists depends primarily on the mode of production of data. Besides, the development of the historical sciences within the university context of the 20th century has hindered the emergence of very general assertions about the totality of human history. An epistemological program must be based on analysis of the modes of construction of typifying, stylizing, and comparatives operations. Generalization cannot be separated from the demonstration of regularities and from their handling through stabilized procedures. The political and intellectual history of generalization in the disciplines is thus to a large extent identical to the development of the formating of objects. The reflexive turn toward the politico-epistemological genesis of such an instrumentarium is a necessary stage on the road to the reassessment of the generalizing potentialities of knowledge, which cannot be broken away from the moment they are produced and from their political goals. The peculiar history of the development of historical knowledge has nothing to lose with paradigmatical instability, for it is closely linked to its own mode of production. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
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