Peirce and the founding of American sociology

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This paper argues that Charles Sanders Peirce contributed significantly to the founding of American sociology, doing so at the level of philosophical presuppositions or meta-sociology. I emphasize two of his ideas. One is semiotics, which is virtually the same as the anthropologists' concept of culture. This latter concept in turn was essential to clarifying the sociologists' idea of the social or society. Peirce also created the modern theory of the dialogical self, which explained the symbolic character of human beings and proved foundational for social psychology. Politically Peirce was a right-wing conservative, but his ideas eventually contributed to the egalitarian views of cultures and sub-cultures. In addition his ideas contributed, by way of unanticipated consequences, to the 20th-century human rights revolutions in the American legal system. Thus he was both a founder of sociology and a founder of American political liberalism. copyright

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-50
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Classical Sociology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2006


  • Early American sociology
  • Inner speech
  • Peirce
  • Semiotics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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