Contemporary Social and Political Theory: An Introduction

Contemporary Social and Political Theory: An Introduction

Contemporary Social and Political Theory: An Introduction

Contemporary Social and Political Theory: An Introduction

Synopsis

"...the book is excellent and should do really well. It is well written and comprehensive, and it meets the needs of sociologists." John Scott, University of Essex• What have been the major innovations in contemporary social and political thought in the twentieth century?• How have these ideas challenged the canon?• What are the implications of these new ideas for our understanding of the key theoretical concepts?This new and accessible introduction to contemporary social and political theory examines the impact of new ideas such as feminist theory, poststructuralism, hermeneutics and critical theory. The innovations brought by these currents to the intellectual traditions of Europe and America are outlined and assessed. Designed for the newcomer to theory, no previous knowledge is assumed and a student-friendly approach is adopted throughout.Rather than focus on individual thinkers, the authors take a 'conceptual' approach by examining contemporary theories through themes such as 'critique', 'rationality', 'power', 'the subject', 'the body' and 'culture'. Each chapter considers the evolution of a concept and examines the major debates and transformations that have taken place in that area. The needs of the undergraduate are kept in mind at all times and, in addition to an extensive bibliography, the book contains a useful glossary of key terms and concepts.

Excerpt

Social and political theory can be a daunting prospect for the student new to the interrogation of ideas. the precise meaning and full import of contemporary philosophies, the application of a concept or theory, or the wider practical implications of a new way of thinking can be difficult to grasp. Sometimes an idea can appear so defeatingly obscure that it seems wiser to abandon the enterprise than pursue it further. This attitude is both understandable and unfortunate, as theories and concepts occupy centre-stage in the key discussions and disputes that animate the social sciences and humanities. It is the purpose of this book to provide an accessible introduction to contemporary social and political theory that might guide those new to the field over rough but rewarding terrain.

But what is theory and why is it so important? a theory might best be understood as a conceptual framework that enables the organization and evaluation of social experience. a theory permits us to put everyday experiences in context and to compare them, perhaps even control them in some way. As conscious human beings we all think theoretically in order to plan and order our lives, though usually we do not think of ourselves as ‘theorists’. Yet to complete even the most banal of daily routines requires an implicit theoretical grasp of the complex social rules, codes and behavioural regularities that we confront. Because everyday behaviour does not usually demand that we make explicit our theoretical understanding of society, we tend to treat our actions, and those of others, as mere ‘common sense’. However, when certain forms of behaviour or particular social rules are not adhered to - such as when someone is, we think, being offensive - we invoke the rule that has been broken and consider the reasons for having such a rule in the first place. It is on occasions like this, when conventions and expectations are disrupted, that we must become theorists of sorts. For it is then that we bring to mind the frameworks that help us to order the world. We might even say that it is when such conventions are broken, forcing us to address our habits anew so as to reaffirm or change them, that we are being most social or even most human. It is the conceptualization and evaluation of such habits, the . . .

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