This article examines the development of empirical social research in Portugal over about a century and its relation to the early institutionalization of sociology at the tail end of that period. Relying on new empirical data, coupled with a critical reading of the main sources on the topic, it brings to light some epistemic invariants in a disparate body of research, acknowledging the initial persistence of Le Play-inspired as well as properly Le Playsian research methods. Furthermore, it identifies the general continuation of a substantial concern with the (physical and then moral) condition of rural and industrial workers, leading to a disclosure of the political-economic and governmental roots of the social research in question. From a historical sociology perspective, the article explores the relation between state governmentalization and authoritarian rule, on the one hand, and the development of the social sciences, on the other. From a history of science perspective, it acknowledges the continuous use of the same research methods to carry out seemingly incommensurable social research programmes and the later pursuit of a properly sociological research programme that fell back on conflicting methodological and theoretical approaches. In broader terms, the article aims to put forward a historical sociology of theoretical approaches, research methods, and scientific concepts that will hopefully contribute to a clearer understanding of their respective fields of application.
- Frédéric Le Play
- history of sociology
- household budget survey
- state empirical social research