A sociological analysis of Ibn Khaldun's theory : a study in the sociology of knowledge

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Wardī, ʻAlī

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Ibn Khaldun is a great Moslem thinker of the fourteenth century (b. 1332, d. 1406 A. D.). Modern writers are inclined to consider him as a pioneer or a precursor in the science of society and the philosophy of history. Some of them consider him as the first sociologist in the history of mankind and even the founder of modern sociology. His Prolegomena, which is the primary subject of study in the present work, is regarded by one authority as one of the six important monographic works in general sociology. The aim of this dissertation is not to study either Ibn Khaldun or his theory in minute detail. In fact, other modern students have successfully achieved that task. The aim of this work is, rather, a different one. Our aim here is to see Ibn Khaldun in a different light, or, to use Mannheim's term, through a perspective which is greatly different from the customary one. Ibn Khaldun lived in a culture quite different from our present culture, and was accustomed to view the world within a frame of reference with which we are perhaps completely unfamiliar. The first duty that lies, therefore, before us, in order to be able to understand Ibn Khaldun, is to reconstruct his perspective or his frame of reference anew, and to try to look at the social phenomena through it. In this work, the space which is devoted to the discussion of Ibn Khaldun's theory per se is small in comparison to that devoted to the reconstruction of the perspective and the categories of thought according to which Ibn Khaldun and his fellow writers viewed their world. This work is, as its subtitle shows, a study in the sociology of knowledge. Ibn Khaldun is then taken as a point in case. He is studied primarily to show how his theory and the theories produced in his culture can fit into the general scheme of the sociology of knowledge as recently developed by modern sociologists.