Social theory is the theoretical core of the social sciences, clearly distinguishable from political theory and cultural analysis. This book offers a unique overview of the development of social theory from the end of the Second World War in 1945 to the present day. Spanning the literature in English, French and German, it provides an excellent background to the most important social theorists and theories in contemporary sociological thought, with crisp summaries of the main books, arguments and controversies. It also deals with newly emerging schools from rational choice to symbolic interactionism, with new ambitious approaches (Habermas, Luhmann, Giddens, Bourdieu), structuralism and antistructuralism, critical revisions of modernization theory, feminism and neopragmatism. Written by two of the world's leading sociologists and based on their extensive academic teaching, this unrivalled work is ideal both for students in the social sciences and humanities and for anyone interested in contemporary theoretical debates.
Hans Joas is the Max Weber Professor and Director of the Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies at the University of Erfurt. He is also Professor of Sociology and a member of the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. Wolfgang Knobl is Professor of Sociology at the University of Gottingen.
Introduction; 1. What is theory?; 2. The classical attempt at synthesis: Talcott Parsons; 3. Parsons on the road to normativist functionalism; 4. Parsons and the elaboration of normativist functionalism; 5. Neo-utilitarianism; 6. Interpretive approaches (1): symbolic interactionism; 7. Interpretive approaches (2): ethnomethodology; 8. Conflict sociology and conflict theory; 9. Habermas and critical theory; 10. Habermas' 'theory of communicative action'; 11. Niklas Luhmann's radicalization of functionalism; 12. Anthony Giddens' theory of structuration and the new British sociology of power; 13. The renewal of Parsonianism and modernization theory; 14. Structuralism and poststructuralism; 15. Between structuralism and theory of practice: the cultural sociology of Pierre Bourdieu; 16. French anti-structuralists (Cornelius Castoriadis, Alain Touraine and Paul Ricoeur); 17. Feminist social theories; 18. A crisis of modernity? New diagnoses (Ulrich Beck, Zygmunt Bauman, Robert Bellah, and the debate between liberals and communitarians); 19. Neopragmatism; 20. How things stand; Bibliography.