The calling of social thought

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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