Self, Social Structure, and Beliefs: Explorations in Sociology

Self, Social Structure, and Beliefs: Explorations in Sociology

Self, Social Structure, and Beliefs: Explorations in Sociology

Self, Social Structure, and Beliefs: Explorations in Sociology


"For nearly fifty years, Neil Smelser has been one of the world's most distinguished sociologists. His intellectual range is remarkable, and so too his influence over the discipline. The essays collected here are a fitting tribute precisely because they are intellectually rich, diverse, thought-provoking and unafraid of controversy. They offer commanding views of a dozen subfields, syntheses of important lines of work, and agendas for the future."--Craig Calhoun, President, Social Science Research Council

"If the legacy of scholars is measured by the work of their students, Neil Smelser has done very well indeed. The great range of topics covered in this volume is a testament to his sociological breath. This collection should be read for what it reveals about the many dimensions of an intellectual life well lived, as well as for what it teaches about the past and the present of our discipline."--Michele Lamont, co- author of" Rethinking Comparative Cultural Sociology: Repertoires of Evaluation in France and the United States

"A brilliant collection of essays giving expression to the diversity and depth of Neil Smelser's scholarly and intellectual achievement. The authors show how Smelser's multidisciplinary synthesis represents a summary of the achievements of economics, psychology and sociology in the second half of the twentieth century."--Bryan S. Turner, author of "The Body and Society


Future historians will write about Neil Smelser as an iconic figure in twentieth-century sociology's second half. Smelser has had an extraordinarily active career not only as a scholar but also as a teacher and organizational leader. Every participant in this volume has proudly been a “Smelser student” in one form or another. The distinction of these contributions speaks directly to Smelser's power as a teacher. His immensely impressive and varied performances as organizational leader are perhaps less well known, but they speak equally clearly of scholarly power exercised in a more political manner. His roles have included being advisor to a string of University of California chancellors and presidents; referee of the nation's most significant scientific training and funding programs, from the National Science Foundation to the departments of leading universities; organizer of the Handbook of Sociology and the new International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences; and, most recently, director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

In many respects, both Neil Smelser and the social sciences matured together in the second half of the last century. Smelser expanded his areas of research to include sociology, psychology, economics, and history at the same time that newly synthetic cross-disciplinary programs, area studies, and applied programs appeared. Through his work with commissions and foundations and as a spokesperson for the social sciences, he sought a greater public role for sociology and helped to foster the gradual infiltration of their findings and methods into other disciplines, practical settings, and popular culture. Smelser's early interest in comparative international studies anticipated their expansion, an increase in international collaboration, and greater awareness of globalization issues. His move from optimism about positivist approaches and functionalism in the 1950s to a more guarded opti-

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