Fifty Key Sociologists: The Formative Theorists

Fifty Key Sociologists: The Formative Theorists

Fifty Key Sociologists: The Formative Theorists

Fifty Key Sociologists: The Formative Theorists


Covering the life, work, ideas and impact of some of the most significant thinkers in sociology, Fifty Key Sociologists: The Formative Theorists concentrates on figures in the field writing principally in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Including entries on Jane Addams, Theodor Adorno, George Lukács, Max Weber and Pitrim Sorokin, this practical text:

  • is presented in an accessible A-Z format for maximum ease-of-use
  • provides full cross-referencing and a further reading section for each entry, in order to allow the reader to broaden their understanding of the area
  • includes biographical data for each of the figures covered.

Presenting the key works and ideas of each sociologist featured, as well as providing some critical assessment of their work, this is an ideal reference guide for undergraduate and postgraduate students of sociology, cultural studies and general studies, as well as other readers interested in this important field.


‘Classical’ and ‘modern’ are, perhaps, the most common labels applied to social theorists. Both terms are, however, misleading. Debates over modernity and modernization have made problematic the idea that ‘modern’ can be used to mean ‘contemporary’. Equally problematic is the word ‘classical’. In music, art and architecture, classical styles have a particular meaning and can be contrasted with the ‘romantic’ and other styles. This has never been the case in sociology. Although the term was once used to refer to the status of certain foundational statements as ‘classic’ works that stand as exemplars, it is now most often used simply with a chronological reference: ‘classical’ theory is theory that came before contemporary theory.

For all these reasons, this book has been described not as a book of classical social theory but as a book of formative social theory. I use the term formative to refer to those theorists who contributed to the formation of a distinctive body of social theory and social research in the period when sociology and the other social sciences were becoming established as distinct disciplines.

This period comprises the bulk of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. This is not to say that all social theorists of the period agreed with each other – far from it. What characterizes the period is a common concern for establishing the disciplinary frameworks within which theoretical debate could take place and intellectual disagreements could be thrashed out. The formative writers established a set of common themes towards which they contributed differentially and that formed the basis for all subsequent social theorizing.

Social theory is not the same thing as ‘sociology’. The discipline of sociology, as it emerged in the formative period, has, however, been a focus for the development of the most general formulations of social theory. Theoretical ideas have, however, also developed in the more specialized social sciences – in geography, in politics, in social . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.