Sociological Theory: What Went Wrong? : Diagnosis and Remedies

Sociological Theory: What Went Wrong? : Diagnosis and Remedies

Sociological Theory: What Went Wrong? : Diagnosis and Remedies

Sociological Theory: What Went Wrong? : Diagnosis and Remedies

Synopsis

Social theory is open to many passing currents. Claims to originality tend to thrive and past achievements are often ignored. In Sociologiocal Theory: What Went Wrong? Mouzelis claims that "problems" currently being isolated are not really problems, and that "achievements" claimed are little more than pretensions. He argues that we have been premature to dismiss thinkers from the late 1950s and early 1960s and that we can build on their ideas to produce a more effective, more relevant social theory. Written with precision and with clarity, Sociological Theory: What Went Wrong? is a compelling analysis of the central problems of sociological theory today and of the means to resolve them.

Excerpt

This book is quite deliberately Janus-faced, simultaneously looking forwards and backwards. It attempts selectively to appropriate certain anti-essentialist and anti-foundationalist insights developed by post-structuralism and other versions of modern social theory, in order to come to the rescue of sociological theory-a mode of analysis neither very popular in the 1960s and 1970s when sociology was under the sway of Althusserian Marxism, nor very fashionable today when sociology is mesmerized by anti-Marxist versions of structuralist and post-structuralist thought.

In order to explain the gist of my argument I shall begin with an old-fashioned distinction between two types of theory: (i) theory as a set of interrelated substantive statements trying to tell us something new, something we do not know about the social world, which statements can be tentatively proved or disproved by empirical investigation; and (ii) theory as a set of tools that simply facilitate, or prepare the ground for, the construction of substantive theory. In non-Marxist sociology, the type (ii) theory is designated by various terms such as conceptual framework, paradigm, metatheory or heuristic device. Since none of the above are entirely unambiguous nor do they overlap completely, I prefer the terms Generalities II and Generalities III, coined by Althusser when he set out to distinguish theory as a tool/means (Gen. II), and theory as a provisional end-product (Gen. III).

The distinction between conceptual framework and substantive theory, between Gen. II and Gen. III, is not, of course, entirely clear cut. All actual theories contain within them both types of theoretical statements. In most

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