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Series: Beginnings

Beginning classical social theory introduces students and educated general readers to thirteen key social theorists by way of examining a single, exemplary text by each author. After an introductory reflection on the concept of ‘social theory’, the book is organized chronologically, ranging from Comte to Adorno.

The chapters address key themes of classical social theory, including modernity, democracy, gender, class, the commodity form, community, social facts, race, capitalism, strangeness, love and marriage. They present a diverse range of arguments that introduce readers to how classical theorists thought and wrote.

The book is written as a tool that promotes independent, critical engagement with, rather than reproduction of knowledge about theory. It answers the need for a book that helps students develop the skill to critically read theory.

After short, contextualizing introductions to each author, every chapter presents a close reading of one single key text demonstrating how to break down and analyze their arguments. Rather than learning how to admire the canonical theorists, readers are alerted to the flow of their arguments, the texts’ contradictions and limitations and to what makes them ‘classical’. Having gotten ‘under the skin’ of one key text by each author will provide readers with a solid starting point for further study.

The book will be suitable as the principal textbook in social theory modules as much as alongside a more conventional textbook as a recommended additional tool for self-study. It will appeal to undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as educated lay readers.

The myth and reality of social existence
Anthony King

can be employed so that it, too, contributes to contemporary debates in social theory. Certainly, this myth cannot resolve the technical issues of those debates – it cannot demonstrate the shortcomings of the concepts of structure and agency – but it does usefully symbolise the major positions in this debate. Thus, the work operates around two visions of social order, symbolised by the Ring and the Fellowship. Each represents alternative social ontologies: while the Ring signifies a dualistic society of autonomous individuals, unified only by a centralised, all

in Human agents and social structures
Intermediating the Internet Economy in Digital Livelihoods Provision for Refugees
Andreas Hackl

, Anthropology of ’, in Wright , J. (ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, Second Edition ( Amsterdam : Elsevier ). McKenzie , M. de J. ( 2022 ), ‘ Micro-Assets and Portfolio Management in the New Platform Economy ’, Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory (Aarhus

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Lisette R. Robles

, 64 : 12 , 1056 – 61 . Szreter , S. and Woolcock , M. ( 2004 ), ‘ Health by Association? Social Capital, Social Theory and the Political Economy of Public Health ’, International Journal of Epidemiology , 33 : 4 , 650 – 67 , doi: 10.1093/ije/dyh013

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Rediscovering the work of Edward Shils

Edward Shils was an important figure in twentieth century social theory, and a true transatlantic thinker who divided his time between the University of Chicago and the U.K. He was friends with many important thinkers in other fields, such as Michael Polanyi and Saul Bellow. He became known to sociologists through his brief collaboration with Talcott Parsons, but his own thinking diverged both from Parsons and conventional sociology. He developed but never finalized a comprehensive image of human society made up of personal, civic, and sacred bonds. But much of his thought was focused on conflicts: between intellectuals and their societies, between tradition and modernity, ideological conflict, and conflicts within the traditions of the modern liberal democratic state. This book explores the thought of Shils, his relations to key figures, his key themes and ideas, and his abiding interests in such topics as the academic tradition and universities. Together, the chapters provide the most comprehensive picture of Shils as a thinker, and explain his continuing relevance.

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Schooling and the struggle for social change

Education has long been central to the struggle for radical social change. Yet, as social class inequalities sustain and deepen, it is increasingly difficult to conceptualise and understand the possibility for ‘emancipatory’ education. In Radical Childhoods Jessica Gerrard takes up this challenge by theoretically considering how education might contribute to radical social change, alongside an in-depth comparative historical enquiry. Attending to the shifting nature of class, race, and gender relations in British society, this book offers a thoughtful account of two of the most significant community-based schooling initiatives in British history: the Socialist Sunday School (est. 1892) and Black Saturday/Supplementary School (est. 1967) movements. Part I situates Radical Childhoods within contemporary policy and practice contexts, before turning to critical social theory to consider the possibility for ‘emancipatory’ education. Offering detailed analyses of archival material and oral testimony, Parts II and III chronicle the social histories of the Socialist Sunday School and Black Saturday/Supplementary School movements, including their endeavour to create alternative cultures of radical education and their contested relationships to the state and wider socialist and black political movements. Radical Childhoods argues that despite appearing to be on the ‘margins’ of the ‘public sphere’, these schools were important sites of political struggle. In Part IV, Gerrard develops upon Nancy Fraser’s conception of counter-publics to argue for a more reflexive understanding of the role of education in social change, accounting for the shifting boundaries of public struggle, as well as confronting normative (and gendered) notions of ‘what counts’ as political struggle.

The structure/agency debate has been among the central issues in discussions of social theory. It has been widely assumed that the key theoretical task is to find a link between social structures and acting human beings to reconcile the macro with the micro, society and the individual. This book considers a general movement in which the collective concepts established by the early pioneers of modern sociological thought have been reconsidered in the light of both theoretical critique and empirical results. It argues that the contemporary sociological preoccupation with structure and agency has had disastrous effects on the understanding of Karl Marx's ideas. Through a critical evaluation of 'structuration theory' as a purported synthesis of 'structure and agency', the book also argues that the whole idea of a structure-and-agency 'problem' mythologises the fracture lines that do run through relatively recent sociological thought. Michel Foucault's ideas were used to both shore up existing positions in sociology and to instantiate (or solve) the 'new' structure-agency 'problem'. Foucault allowed sociologists to conduct 'business as usual' between the demise of structuralism and the contemporary consensus around Pierre Bourdieu-Anthony Giddens-Jurgen Habermas and the structure-agency dualisms. Habermas is one of the most prominent figures in contemporary social theory.

A governmental analysis

Recent years have witnessed a burgeoning international literature which seeks to analyse the construction of health and health policy through an analytical lens drawn from post-Foucauldian ideas of governmentality. This book is the first to apply the theoretical lens of post-Foucauldian governmentality to an analysis of health problems, practices, and policy in Ireland. Drawing on empirical examples related to childhood, obesity, mental health, smoking, ageing and others, it explores how specific health issues have been constructed as problematic and in need of intervention in the Irish State. The book focuses specifically on how Jean Jacques Rousseau's critical social theory and normative political theory meet as a conception of childhood. The 'biosocial' apparatus has recently been reconfigured through a policy framework called Healthy Ireland, the purpose of which is to 'reduce health inequalities' by 'empowering people and communities'. Child fatness continues to be framed as a pervasive and urgent issue in Irish society. In a novel departure in Irish public health promotion, the Stop the Spread (STS) campaign, free measuring tapes were distributed throughout Ireland to encourage people to measure their waists. A number of key characteristics of neoliberal governmentality, including the shift towards a market-based model of health; the distribution of power across a range of agents and agencies; and the increasing individualisation of health are discussed. One of the defining features of the Irish health system is the Universal Health Insurance and the Disability Act 2005.

Open Access (free)
A critical reading of singlehood, gender and time

“What are you waiting for?” Stop wasting your time” “You will die alone,” “You will miss the train and stay on your own! “. These are just some of the questions and warnings that single women hear on an everyday basis. In a similar vein, single women are constantly being asked whether they are ‘‘still single,’’ or being bid to get married next or soon. Still, soon, ever-after, waste of time, waiting, how long, when, all these form part of the rich language of time.

Table for one is the first book to consider the profound relationship between singlehood and social time. Drawing on a wide range of cultural resources – including web columns, blogs, advice columns, popular clichés, advertisements and references from television and cinema, Kinneret Lahad challenges the conventional meaning-making processes of singlehood and Time and raises pertinent questions about how people conceptualize their lives alone and with others.

Lahad’s unique approach gives us the opportunity to explore singlehood through temporal concepts such as waiting, wasting time, timeout or age and accelerated aging. Other temporal categories which are examined throughout this book as the life course, linearity and commodification of time enable a new consideration of dominant perceptions about collective clocks, schedules, and the temporal organization of social life in general. By proposing this new analytical direction, this book seeks to rework some of our common conceptions of singlehood, and presents a new theoretical arsenal with which the temporal paradigms which devalue and marginalize single women and women’s subjectivies in general are reassessed and subverted.

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If it is not mysterious, it is not social theory
Marcel Stoetzle

As long as there is any life in society, as well as suffering, trouble and unease, there will also be the desire for methodical, sustained, critical inquiry into its nature, dynamics, contradictions and – as yet – unfulfilled possibilities: social theory. Social theory takes many forms. In the academic context, it mediates between social science and societal practice: social theory is the self-reflection of social-scientific practice on its societal backgrounds, functions, aims and purposes. Social theory asks why, how and what for? It is only

in Beginning classical social theory