Historical Sociology and Time

Ronald Aminzade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

190 Scopus citations


Historical sociologists have criticized their discipline for a tendency to ignore the temporal dimensions of social life, either by studying the correlates of outcomes rather than the character of temporally connected events or by treating events as surface manifestations of large-scale and long-term processes of change. These critiques have led to a reassessment of the value of narratives and to new methods for mapping historical sequences of events. Yet there has been relatively little discussion of the concepts needed to create a more event-centered historical sociology. This article explores the way in which four different concepts of time-duration, pace, trajectory, and cycle-have been used in recent historical social science. These concepts allow one to analyze the temporal characteristics of connected events that constitute long-term historical processes as well as the way in which actors understand and experience the temporal flow of events. They are most useful, the author argues when employed in a manner that is attentive to the understandings of social actors and the problematic reconstruction of the past. These concepts constitute building blocks for the construction of a more event-centered historical sociology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)456-480
Number of pages25
JournalSociological Methods & Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1992

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