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Handbook of Social Theory [Paperback]

Barry Smart , George Ritzer

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Book Description

1 Mar 2001 0761941878 978-0761941873
This book is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the roots, current debates and future development of social theory. It draws together a team of outstanding international scholars and presents an authoritative and panoramic critical survey of the field.

The volume is divided into three parts. The first part examines the classical tradition. Included here are critical discussions of Comte, Spencer, Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Simmel, Mead, Freud, Mannheim and classical feminist thought. This part conveys the classical tradition as a living resource in social theory, it demonstrates not only the critical significance of classical writings, but their continuing relevance.

The second part moves on to examine the terrain of contemporary social theory. The contributions discuss the significance and strengths and weaknesses of structural functionalism, recent Marxian theory, critical theory, symbolic interactionism, phenomenology, ethnomethodology, exchange theory, rational choice, contemporary feminism, multiculturalism, postmodernism, the thought of Foucault and Habermas, and figurational sociology. The reader gains a comprehensive and informed picture of the key issues and central figures of the day.

The final part ranges over the key debates in current social theory. Questions relating to positivism, metatheorizing, cultural studies, consumption, sexualities, the body, globalism, nationalism, socialism, knowledge societies, ethics and morality, as well as post-social relations are fully discussed. The dilemmas and promise of contemporary social theory are revealed with pinpoint accuracy.


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`This book is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the roots, current debates and future development of social theory. It will be required reading for scholars and students in sociology, social philosophy and cultural studies... A genuine comprehensive treatment that provides a bridge between European and American perspectives, serving the needs of students and teachers in social sciences' - The Hindu

`Ritzer and Smart provide a judicious editorial guide to the complexities of social theory from the classics to contemporary approaches. A genuinely comprehensive treatment that provides a bridge between European and American perspectives, the Handbook will serve the needs of students and teachers in the social sciences - a laudable work of theoretical integration' - Bryan S Turner, University of Cambridge

`We are in the midst of a great change: social theory is replacing sociological theory. Ritzer and Smart make use of the time-honored device of the "Handbook" to bring order to this new, often conflicting, and often confusing, intellectual field. They bring together a sparkling array of articles by some of the best minds in contemporary sociological theory. The result is a significant clarification of the transition from sociological to social theory that we are undergoing today' - Jeffrey Alexander, University of California

About the Author

George Ritzer is Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, where he has also been a Distinguished Scholar-Teacher and won a Teaching Excellence Award. He was awarded the 2000 Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award by the American Sociological Association and an honorary doctorate from LaTrobe University in Australia. His best-known work, The McDonaldization of Society, has been read by hundreds of thousands of students over two decades and translated into over a dozen languages.  Ritzer is also the author of a series best-selling social theory textbooks for McGraw-Hill;  McDonaldization: The Reader;  and other works of critical sociology related to the McDonaldization thesis, including  A Critique of the Global Credit Card Society, Enchanting a Disenchanted World, The Globalization of Nothing, Globalization: A Basic Text, and The Outsourcing of Everything. He is the Editor of the Encyclopedia of Social Theory (2 vols.), the Encyclopedia of Sociology (11 vols.), and the Encyclopedia of Globalization (5 vols.), and is Founding Editor of the Journal of Consumer Culture. In 2014 he published the second edition of Introduction to Sociology with SAGE. 



Barry Smart is Professor of sociology at the University of Portsmouth and a member of the Centre for European and International Studies Research (CEISR). His research interests include: critical social theory; the

globalization of consumer culture and the transformation of economic life; and the cultural economy of modern sport. His most recent books are Economy, Culture & Society (OUP, 2003), The Sport Star (SAGE, 2005) and Consumer Society (SAGE, 2010)


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First Sentence
Handbooks, by their very nature, serve to define a field of study, to map out, at least for a time and for at least some scholars, the analytic parameters, key figures, perspectives and concerns associated with the field. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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