This book argues that sociology has not freed itself from the influence of philosophy, and specifically from the search for certainty. This "foundationalism" which is characteristic of Western thought has influenced both the methods adopted by sociologists, and their research practices. The authors criticize sociology for its formalism arguing that this blunts the radicalism of its project. To regain the radical and critical edge implicit in sociology, it is necessary to adopt a comparative and historical approach which interprets social science as part of societal learning. In the first part of the book the authors trace formalism to central positions in Western philosophy and examine its impact on historiography, evolutionary social thought and positivist sociology. In the second part they examine the tensions between formalism and social theory in the work of Levi Strauss and Habermas. In part three they compare modernization theory to more recent discussions of "modernity" and "postmodernity", and show the elements of continuity between these apparently contrary positions. The book closes with a discussion of alternative, more sociological accounts of rationalist thought.