Fifty Key Sociologists: The Contemporary Theorists

Fifty Key Sociologists: The Contemporary Theorists

Fifty Key Sociologists: The Contemporary Theorists

Fifty Key Sociologists: The Contemporary Theorists


Fifty Key Sociologists: The Contemporary Theorists covers the life, work, ideas and impact of some of the most important thinkers in this discipline.

Concentrating on figures writing predominantly in the second half of the twentieth century, such as Zygmunt Bauman, Pierre Bourdieu, Judith Butler, Michel Foucault and Claude Lévi-Strauss, each entry includes:

  • full cross-referencing
  • a further reading section
  • biographical data
  • key works and ideas
  • critical assessment.

Clearly presented in an easy-to-navigate A-Z format, this accessible reference guide is ideal for undergraduate and postgraduate students of sociology, cultural studies and general studies, as well as other readers interested in this fascinating field.


The theorists included in this volume comprise those who have made the most important and innovative advances on the formative ideas set out by the theorists included in Fifty Key Sociologists: The Formative Theorists. They are ‘contemporary’ by virtue of the continuing relevance of their theoretical innovations to current sociological work. Their theoretical ideas have picked up from the leading contributions of the formative sociologists and have enlarged their arguments, or they have developed totally new concepts as the basis for their own work.

Contemporary theory should not be seen as something that replaces the earlier, formative theory. It does not make it totally outmoded and moribund. Contemporary theoretical work should, rather, be seen as an extension and elaboration of many themes developed by the formative writers and as broadening the armoury of theoretical tools available to the sociologist. It is for this reason that most courses in social theory have adopted a chronological structure, tracing the development of ideas from the formative to the contemporary.

This theoretical advance has occurred in all the principal areas of social theorizing. Understandings of culture, of social structure, of socialization, of action, and of conflict and change, for example, have all experienced significant debate and theoretical elaboration. Many old ideas have, indeed, been superseded or have been shown to be misleading or partial and have been supplemented by novel theoretical insights. Of all the areas within which social theory has advanced since the formative period, however, two stand out above all others. These are to be found in the works of those writers who have made gender and ethnicity into their central concerns.

Among the formative theorists, Harriet Martineau pioneered the attempt to understand the position of women, and her lead was followed by a small number of other theorists. Such concerns were, however, largely absent from the mainstream of theoretical debate. It was not until the second-wave feminism of the 1970s, however, that . . .

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