Contemporary issues in sociological theory have been formed through elaboration and critique of the classical tradition. With a view to illuminating the current state of social theory, this book examines major classical theories - of Saint-Simon, Comte, Marx, Durkheim, Dilthey, Tonnies, Simmel and Weber - emphasizing recurring themes and debates. It explains how classical sociology emerged through a debate with the Enlightenment, in which the concept of the "social" took shape. This was constructed around various themes emphasizing contrasting components of social life - including materials, cultural, rational and moral factors. These divergent theorizations set the scene for the play of theoretical oppositions that characterize much subsequent theoretical dispute. Along with these debates there were questions about the very identity of sociology, as naturalistic or hermeneutic, which in turn relate to a core issue in the discipline -grasping the crisis of modernity. In addressing these questions this text, which includes summaries of core concepts and suggested further reading in each chapter, lays firm foundations for a clear understanding of contemporary disputes.
Larry Ray is Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent. His publications include Rethinking Critical Theory (Sage, 1993), Social Theory and the Crisis of State Socialism (Edward Elgar, 1996), and he is co-editor (with Michael Reed) of Organizing Modernity: New Weberian Perspectives on Work and Organization (Routledge, 1994) and (with Andrew Sayer) of Culture and Economy After the Cultural Turn (Sage, 1999).