The aim of this thesis is to establish, develop, and explore the relevance of Nietzsche's social philosophy and philosophy overall to sociology. For while Nietzsche has become a recognised and widely respected intellectual figure in many disciplines in the last two decades, there has yet to be an explicit and in depth application and consideration of his work in a context of English language sociology, in which Nietzsche's actual writings are considered at length and set down beside important contributions to the discipline. By establishing a clear picture of the continuities, and ultimately important discontinuity also between Nietzsche's perspective and some of the more fundamental contributions to sociology then, this thesis intends to redress what has hitherto been largely sporadic allusions to Nietzsche's perspective and its relevance to the discipline.
And the basic vehicle for this thesis' consideration of Nietzsche in a context of sociology, remains an investigative, Nietzschean critique of key popularideals in social theory, and ultimately popular ideals in sociology as a whole, invoking issues of both theory and epistemology. On the more theoretical level firstly, this thesis applies Nietzsche's social philosophy in a critical capacity to begin with, to reconsidering two key, popular ideals permeating the theory of three seminal social theorists, and encompassing what might best be considered ideas of 'social membership'. And the two ideals of social membership this thesis establishes and considers in the respective contributions of T.H. Marshall, Durkheim, and Marx, constitute firstly an ideal of society-wide social desegregation, in terms of the removal of most or all socially engendered obstacles to social equality; and secondly, an ideal of society-wide social solidarity free similarly of socially created and/or consolidated upon divisions. On a more epistemological level in turn however, this thesis considers the implications of aspects of Nietzsche's philosophy in terms of the place, role, and significance of values and ideals in the constitution of sociological knowledge. And fundamentally, while these have long been recognised as an important part of social science, and of the extent to which its propositions and findings remain both partial and contingent, a concerted application of Nietzsche's perspective in a context of sociology holds further implications for understanding both the constitution and development of sociological knowledge. What it implies in sum is that change in prevailing values and ideals, and thus in sociological knowledge in turn, depends on more than change in the 'uniquely' social variables sociologists study.
In considering the relevance of Nietzsche to sociology then, this thesis aims firstly to contribute to the discipline in terms of the important insights, considerations, and emphases, which an in depth engagement with Nietzsche's social philosophy can bring to social theory. Ultimately however, its contribution to sociology is via the field of the philosophy of social science, in terms of a full application in this context of those seldom considered, and/or misunderstood insights of Nietzsche on issues of values and value creation, on what this means for the currency of certain ideals in social theory, and what this implies in turn for the explanatory frameworks of sociology.