Historical Development:
Sociological and Bahá'í Perspective

By Ahva Afnani

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #95
Bosch Bahá'í School: Santa Cruz, California, USA
May 19–23, 2010
(see list of papers from #95)

    In a letter dated 4 January 2009 to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Australia, the Universal House of Justice intimates that in forthcoming plans, the arena of social discourses will become a third area of action (next to expansion and consolidation) in which Baha'is will engage. At all levels of society — from chat forums to statements issued to government officials — the friends will be asked to participate in social discourses by humbly offering the Baha'i view on social issues. Among these discourses include: economics, politics, governance, education, history and religion.

    In approaching the arena of social discourses, it is crucial to have a basic familiarity with the field of sociology — one of the disciplines from which, as the House of Justice suggests, the Baha'is will draw from in contributing to the discourse on social issues. All three of the classical sociological theorists — Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber — offer a theory of historical development, or a theory of how society develops. In doing so, these theorists also provide a commentary on the areas of social discourse listed above. In an effort to provide some basic understanding of the field of sociology, this presentation explores sociology's three classical theories of historical development, and will conclude by contrasting these theories with the Baha'i view of historical development.

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