Contemporary Social Theory: Investigation and Application

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9780131837560: Contemporary Social Theory: Investigation and Application

Contemporary Social Theory: Investigation and Application begins with an examination of social theory and is followed by a review of the major schools of thought. It provides an in-depth analysis and examination of social theory and its relevancy to social society in general. Each of the chapters on the major schools of thought review the basic tenets along with a discussion of some of the major theorists found in each school, their influences, and their concepts and contributions to social theory. Each of these chapters concludes with a relevancy section which serves as a review of the theory and offers criticisms of the school of thought. The application of these concepts and contributions are found throughout each chapter. An interesting and thoughtful book for those interested in the history, present, and future of social theory.

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About the Author:

Tim Delaney, assistant professor of Sociology at the State University of New York at Oswego, holds a B.S. degree in sociology from the State University of New York at Brockport, an M.A. degree in sociology from California State University-Dominguez Hills, and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

Dr. Delaney is the author of Community, Sport and Leisure, Second Edition (2001), coeditor of Values, Society, and Evolution (2002), coeditor of Social Diseases: Mafia, Terrorism and Totalitarianism (2004), and author of both Classical Social Theory: Investigation and Application (2004) and American Street Gangs to be published in 2005. He has published over fifty book reviews, book chapters, and journal and encyclopedia articles and has served as guest Editor for Philosophy Now.

Dr. Delaney has presented thirty-five papers at regional, national, and international conferences, including papers at the Russian Academy of Sciences during international conferences at both St. Petersburg (1999) and Moscow (2001). He has been invited to give guest lectures at Moscow State University in 2004 and 2005. Delaney is the cofounder of the Anthropology Society (of Western New York) and founder of the Social Theory Society, an academic society that promotes "learning through thinking and experience." Delaney maintains membership in ten professional associations. He served his second term as president of the New York State Sociological Association in 2003-2004. He is a charter member of the Wall of Tolerance sponsored by the national campaign for Tolerance, and co-chaired by Rosa Parks and Morris Dees, in recognition of his community activism and scholarship efforts in the fight against social injustice. Dr. Delaney is listed in Marquis Who's Who in America for his outstanding achievements.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Generally speaking, a social theorist is a person who seeks to understand the social world by means of reason and rational thought. Some social thinkers attempt to understand the world from a philosophical standpoint driven by abstract thinking. Abstract thinking allows for creative and innovative thought processes. Other social thinkers attempt to explain the world from a rational standpoint. These scientifically driven theorists seek validity of their theories through empirical research and data analysis and interpretation. It should be understood that all forms of social inquiry are valuable in the pursuit of knowledge and in presenting credible explanations of the world in which we live.

Classical social theorists (for example, Marx, Simmel, Weber, and Durkheim) were influenced by the ideas of earlier philosophers, such as Kant and Hegel. These early philosophers in turn were influenced by social thinkers that preceded them, such as the ancient Greek philosophers (like Aristotle and Plato). In other words, all social thinkers are influenced by those who came before them. Logic, if nothing else, dictates this reality. Current social thinkers are influenced by the works of those people to whom they were exposed. Students of social theory today are in turn influenced by contemporary social thinkers. We all benefit from the knowledge of others. For example, it is not necessary to reinvent the law of gravity, it has already been established. We move on from the knowledge that can be treated as "givens" in order to make new discoveries. The discoveries of today will be treated as "givens" in the future. This is all a part of the "chain of knowledge." As a result of this "chain of knowledge," contemporary social theorists extend, alter, modify, and/or reject the ideas of those who preceded them.

In classical social theory, the focus is on individual theorists. There are many obvious reasons for this focus. Here are three reasons: First, social thinkers of the classical period were few in number. Second, rights to education had not been extended to the masses, leaving most of them illiterate and unable (or too busy) to read the ideas of others. The lack of educational opportunities also meant that there were very few people who had a chance to go to college where they could develop their own academic skills. Third, the lack of publication opportunities and a near non-existent mass media meant that few social thinkers would have an outlet for their ideas. As a result, the masses had no access to their works. By the twentieth century this was all changing. More and more people entered college. Publication opportunities increased. Social thinkers with diverse ideas found audiences. Today, there is an abundance of people who claim to be social thinkers. Consequently, it is impossible to review all the social thinkers that some would like included—especially in an already comprehensive contemporary social theory book such as this one.

As a result of the great proliferation of social theorists and the lack of a number of quality "grand theorists" in the modern era, contemporary social theory is divided into "schools of thought." This is easily understood when one realizes that in the social sciences, and sociology in particular, the fields have become very broad, but areas of specialty among individuals have become very narrow. Because of the large number of thinkers in the contemporary era, theorists who share similar interests or perspectives are grouped together into "schools of thought." Consequently, contemporary sociological theory has become dominated by "schools of thought" rather than by single theorists. This is either good or bad depending on one's perspective. Nonetheless, it is the reality of current sociological social theory. Furthermore, there are those who place a great emphasis on paradigm distinctions. Paradigms represent collective schools of thought that can be lumped together. Ever since Thomas Kuhn published his The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) the topic of paradigm distinction has remained in popular discourse. Unfortunately, there are nearly as many paradigm classifications schemes offered by individuals, as there are "schools of thought." As a result, the focus of this book is on the major "schools of thought."

Contemporary Social Theory: Investigation and Application begins with an examination of social theory and is followed by a review of the major schools of thought. Chapter One provides an in-depth analysis and examination of social theory and its relevancy to social society in general, and sociology, specifically. In each of the chapters on the major schools of thought (2-11) a review of the basic tenets is provided along with a discussion of some of the major theorists found in each school, their influences, and their concepts and contributions to social theory. Each of these chapters concludes with a relevancy section which serves to review the theory, assess the school of thought, and apply select concepts to the relevancy of contemporary society. Chapters 12 and 13 are dedicated to the works of two of the more brilliant theorists of the contemporary era, George Ritzer and Jonathan Turner, respectfully. Additionally, Chapter 14, "Applying Social Theory to Future Society," was written as an attempt to apply many of the established social trends that have existed for the past five centuries and show their relevancy to future society. In this chapter, the author introduces a number of his own concepts and theories; including: the Human Species Convergence Theory and the Five Horrorists (an updated version of Malthus's Four Horsemen). Students, and professors alike, should find this chapter of particular interest.

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