Stephan Collini's "Liberalism and Sociology"

Stephan Collini’s Liberalism and Sociology: L.T.Hobhouse and Political Argument in England 1880-1914 (1979) has, without any doubt, been the best study of L.T.Hobhouse up to now. I also attained my basic knowledge of Hobhouse from this work.

However, there are a few points for which I feel sorry about this book. The biggest problem is that Collini does not seem to care much about Hobhouse’s later works from The Metaphysical Theory of the State (1918) to Social Development (1924). I have some doubt about his saying that ‘I think it can be shown that the main features of his [Hobhouse’s] sociology were already established by 1907, … further chronological analysis of his work would involve a good deal of repetition’.

Well, Collini would be right to say that Hobhouse had already established the foundation of his sociology before 1907. But still important thing is that his career was always a kind of mixture of sociologist, political theorist and journalist. So I think it would have some reason to assume that his sociology had been much influenced by his evaluation of contemporary political and social situation.

As the WWI completely transformed the political and social basis of Britain, the question that to what extent and how did Hobhouse’s social theory change after 1914, could be a valuable one. It is a question which Collini neglected in his work. As E.H.Carr says that each historian is by him/herself the product of his/her age, it would remain as an important work to explore the influence of political and social transition after 1914 on the thoughts of contemporary social scientists like Hobhouse.
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