Contemporary Sociological Theory and Its Classical Roots: The Basics
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1. Introduction to Sociological Theory 1

Creating Sociological Theory

Defining Sociological Theory

Creating Sociological Theory: A More Realistic View

Multicultural Social Theory

Overview of the Book


Suggested Readings

2. Classical Theories I

Emile Durkheim: From Mechanical to Organic Solidarity

Two Types of Solidarity

Changes in Dynamic Density

Collective Conscience

Law: Repressive and Restitutive


Karl Marx: From Capitalism to Communism

Human Potential




Max Weber: The Rationalization of Society

Social Action

Behavior and Action

Types of Action

Types of Rationality

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

Confucianism, Hinduism, and Capitalism

Authority Structures and Rationalization


Suggested Readings

3. Classical Theories II

Georg Simmel: The Growing Tragedy of Culture


Forms and Types


Group Size

Distance and the Stranger

Distance and Value

Objective and Subjective Culture

Division of Labor

Thorstein Veblen: Increasing Control of Business over Industry



George Herbert Mead: Social Behaviorism

The Act


Significant Symbols and Language

The Self

I and Me

Summary Suggested Readings

4. Contemporary Grand Theories I

Structural Functionalism

The Functional Theory of Stratification and Its Critics

Talcott Parsons’s Structural Functionalism

Robert Merton’s Structural Functionalism

Conflict Theory

The Work of Ralf Dahrendorf


Groups, Conflict, and Change

General System Theory

The Work of Niklas Luhmann

System and Environment




Suggested Readings

5. Contemporary Grand Theories II

Neo-Marxian Theory

Critical Theory and the Emergence of the Culture Industry

Neo-Marxian Spatial Analysis

The Civilizing Process

Examples of the Civilizing Process

Explaining the Changes: Lengthening Dependency Chains

A Case Study: Fox Hunting

The Colonization of the Lifeworld

Lifeworld, System, and Colonization

Rationalization of System and Lifeworld

The Juggernaut of Modernity

The Juggernaut

Space and Time


Insecurity and Risks


Suggested Readings

6. Contemporary Theories of Everyday Life

Symbolic Interactionism



Impression Management

Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis

Defining Ethnomethodology


Some Examples

Accomplishing Gender

Exchange Theory

The Exchange Theory of George Homans

Basic Propositions

Rational Choice Theory

A Skeletal Model

Foundations of Social Theory


Suggested Readings

7. Contemporary Integrative Theories

A More Integrated Exchange Theory

Exchange Relationships and Networks


A More Integrative Exchange Theory

Structuration Theory

Elements of Structuration Theory

Culture and Agency

Habitus and Field

Bridging Subjectivism and Objectivism




Suggested Readings

8. Contemporary Feminist Theories by Patricia Madoo Lengermann and Gillian Niebrugge

The Basic Theoretical Questions

The Classical Roots

Contemporary Feminist Theories

Gender Difference

General Feminist Theories of Difference

Sociological Theories of Difference

Gender Inequality

Gender Oppression

Structural Oppression

Toward a Feminist Sociological Theory


Suggested Readings

9. Postmodern Grand Theories

The Transition from Industrial to Postindustrial Society

Increasing Governmentality (and Other Grand Theories)

Increasing Governmentality

Other Grand Theories

Postmodernity as Modernity’s Coming of Age

Learning to Live with Ambivalence?

Postmodern Ethics

The Rise of Consumer Society, Loss of Symbolic Exchange, and Increase in Simulations

From Producer to Consumer Society

The Loss of Symbolic Exchange and the Increase in Simulations

The Consumer Society and the New Means of Consumption

Queer Theory: Sex and Sexuality

The Heterosexual/homosexual Binary

Performing Sex


Suggested Readings

10. Globalization Theory

Major Contemporary Theorists on Globalization

Anthony Giddens on the “Runaway World” of Globalization

Ulrich Beck and the Politics of Globalization

Zygmunt Bauman on the Human Consequences of Globalization

Cultural Theory

Cultural Differentialism

Cultural Convergence

Cultural Hybridization

Economic Theory


Critiquing Neo-Liberalism

Neo-Marxian Theoretical Alternatives to Neo-Liberalism

Transnational Capitalism

Political Theory

Other Theories

Summary Suggested Readings