Social Theory and Social Policy: Essays in Honor of James S. Coleman

Social Theory and Social Policy: Essays in Honor of James S. Coleman

Social Theory and Social Policy: Essays in Honor of James S. Coleman

Social Theory and Social Policy: Essays in Honor of James S. Coleman


This volume is a collection of original essays on social science and public policy, stimulated by the theoretical insights and research formulations of James S. Coleman. Coleman's writings have profoundly influenced and, in several cases, defined the agenda for important subfields of sociology and public policy. The contributors to the volume are a distinguished group of social scientists and government officials from the United States and Europe.


Gudmund Hernes

When Jim Coleman in 1990 published Foundations of Social Theory, it was the crowning of an intellectual effort that had started nearly three decades earlier, at a seminar at Hotel Sagamore at Lake George, New York in 1962 where Talcott Parsons presented a paper on the concept of power. Coleman's critique of this paper was both sharp and penetrating. But the most important result was to anchor in Coleman's mind the notion of power as the use of a resource in a market-like situation. a few years later, in 1966, he first hit upon the idea of formulating not just another definition of power, but a formal model for the exercise of power by a conceptual scheme built on two elements: actors and events, linked in two ways--by their interest in the outcomes of the events and by their share of the control over those outcomes.

The thesis of this chapter is that Coleman's theoretical work in this direction, extended over many years and condensed in Foundations of Social Theory, most fruitfully can be compared toThomas Hobbes Leviathan. the similarity between these works is more than superficial. Not only are many of the problems addressed alike, but the solutions provided are as well. Indeed, the methodological principles, as well as the concepts developed and the paradigm constructed have a remarkable logical similarity.

Hobbes Leviathan ranks among the most prominent works in Western political philosophy, and was in part an attempt to arrive at a scientific theory of social organization on the assumption that men pursued their own selfish ends. the postulate of rational actors is also at the heart of modern economic theory and of theories of collective decisions. in both Hobbes's and these more recent theories, assumptions of the existence of markets and of the possibilities for exchange are central. This enables us to investigate the degree of correspondence between some of Hobbes's concepts and those used in social . . .

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