Social theory: an anti-individualist story
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Prospective readers of this impressive work should not let its subtitle fool them. Its “twenty introductory lectures” are not for the uninitiated. This is an introduction, rather, for the relatively advanced student—and not only the student—who already knows enough sociology, philosophy of science, and (European) history, including the history of ideas, to benefit from the subtleties and sophistication of its analyses and attempt at synthesis. It is at once a work of pedagogy and of scholarship. It also has an agenda, arguing for a particular vision of social theorizing and thus against others. It is, moreover, concerned only with contemporary theory post-1945, referring only tangentially to classical works.
As a pedagogical instrument, it is not a textbook in the conventional sense. As Jeff Manza and his co-authors have recently shown,1most sociology textbooks are constructed in strikingly formulaic ways, almost invariably reproducing identical long-superseded classifications. They...