© 2013

An Age of Limits

Social Theory for the 21st Century


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-ix
  2. Ralph Schroeder
    Pages 47-63
  3. Ralph Schroeder
    Pages 87-113
  4. Ralph Schroeder
    Pages 131-147
  5. Ralph Schroeder
    Pages 148-161
  6. Ralph Schroeder
    Pages 162-193
  7. Ralph Schroeder
    Pages 194-220
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 221-257

About this book


An Age of Limits outlines a new social theory for understanding contemporary society. Providing an analysis of why political, economic and cultural powers face constraints across the global North and beyond, this bold book argues that forces which address current challenges must confront the limits of the interplay between dominant institutions.


democracy development environment Institution politics social change social theory

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of OxfordUK

About the authors

Ralph Schroeder is Professor at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, UK. He is author of Max Weber and the Sociology of Culture, Possible Worlds: The Social Dynamic of Virtual Reality Technologies, Avatars at Work and Play: Activities in Shared Virtual Environments (edited with Ann-Sofie Axelsson), Rethinking Science, Technology and Social Change, Being There Together: Social Interaction in Virtual Environments and, with Eric Meyer, Networks of Knowledge: Digital Transformations of Research.

Bibliographic information


"The reader has come to expect brilliant sociological analysis from Ralph Schroeder, and his latest book is no exception. The scope is broad and what the author promises and also delivers is a theory of modern society, based on comparative-historical analysis. Recommended reading not only for sociologists, political scientists, and economists, but also for general readers who want to experience what really good social science is like." - Richard Swedberg, Professor of Sociology, Cornell University, USA

"This is the most thought-provoking piece of social theory I have encountered for years, suggesting as it does that our place in history has changed - with limits and constraints replacing dreams of progress. This is an elegant, high-powered, wide-ranging, and extremely disturbing book. It will cause a stir." - John A. Hall, Professor of Sociology, McGill University, Canada

"Ralph Schroeder presents a masterful sociological projection of the next phase of modernity. Pluralist democracy, market capitalism, and rapid-discovery science have triumphed everywhere, or soon will. But all major institutions have now come up against limits. Utopian prospects are no longer feasible, whether unlimited economic growth and control of nature, social equality, or political harmony. On the bright side, these structures make it unlikely there will be another world war or extremists taking power. After several spectacular centuries, the world is settling down to rattling around within confined limits. All thoughtful viewers of our future should take note." - Randall Collins, Dorothy Swaine Thomas Professor of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA

"This is an ambitious, original, and provocative analysis of the fundamental structures of modern society, especially strong in its analysis of economic markets and science and technology. A significant contribution to the grand classical tradition of comparative and historical sociology." Michael Mann, Professor of Sociology, University of California, USA