Hermeneutics and Social Theory

  • Anthony Giddens
Part of the Contemporary Social Theory book series


‘Hermeneutics’ — the theory of interpretation — has only recently become a familiar term to those working in the social sciences, at least in the English-speaking world. On the face of it this is an oddity, for the hermeneutic tradition stretches back at least as far as the late eighteenth century; and the term ‘hermeneutics’ derives from the Greeks. But this neglect is less odd than it appears, since the hermeneutic tradition was most firmly established in Germany, and many of the key texts remain untranslated into English. The concept of verstehen, the unifying notion of the hermeneutic tradition, became most widely known in the English-speaking world through its adoption by Max Weber. As such, it was subject to scourging attack by those associated with what I shall call the ‘orthodox consensus’.1 The controversy about verstehen in the English-speaking literature,2 however, largely by-passed some of the most significant questions raised by the hermeneutic tradition. Weber was only influenced in some part by that tradition, drawing his methodological ideas more strongly from the work of Rickert and the ‘Marburg School’.


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Copyright information

© Anthony Giddens 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony Giddens
    • 1
  1. 1.King’s CollegeCambridgeUK

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