Contemporary Sociological Theory and Its Classical Roots: The Basics

© 2013
by George Ritzer, Jeff Stepnisky

4th Edition Going Out of Publication 352 Pages Paperback / softback
9780078026782 0078026784

  • Description
  • Table of Contents
  • Features
Contemporary Social Theory and Its Classical Roots: The Basics is ideal for those looking for a brief, yet accessible text on sociological theory. An affordable alternative to a standard text, this volume is concise, comprehensive, informative, engaging, includes a range of pedagogical features, and it appeals to a wide range of students. The 4th edition has added new sections on W.E.B. Du Bois, Queer theory, and key concepts and applications boxes on a variety of contemporary social theories.

1. Introduction to Sociological Theory 1

Creating Sociological Theory

Defining Sociological Theory

Creating Sociological Theory: A More Realistic View

Multicultural Social Theory

Overview of the Book


Suggested Readings

2. Classical Theories I

Emile Durkheim: From Mechanical to Organic Solidarity

Two Types of Solidarity

Changes in Dynamic Density

Collective Conscience

Law: Repressive and Restitutive


Karl Marx: From Capitalism to Communism

Human Potential




Max Weber: The Rationalization of Society

Social Action

Behavior and Action

Types of Action

Types of Rationality

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

Confucianism, Hinduism, and Capitalism

Authority Structures and Rationalization


Suggested Readings

3. Classical Theories II

Georg Simmel: The Growing Tragedy of Culture


Forms and Types


Group Size

Distance and the Stranger

Distance and Value

Objective and Subjective Culture

Division of Labor

Thorstein Veblen: Increasing Control of Business over Industry



George Herbert Mead: Social Behaviorism

The Act


Significant Symbols and Language

The Self

I and Me

Summary Suggested Readings

4. Contemporary Grand Theories I

Structural Functionalism

The Functional Theory of Stratification and Its Critics

Talcott Parsons's Structural Functionalism

Robert Merton's Structural Functionalism

Conflict Theory

The Work of Ralf Dahrendorf


Groups, Conflict, and Change

General System Theory

The Work of Niklas Luhmann

System and Environment




Suggested Readings

5. Contemporary Grand Theories II

Neo-Marxian Theory

Critical Theory and the Emergence of the Culture Industry

Neo-Marxian Spatial Analysis

The Civilizing Process

Examples of the Civilizing Process

Explaining the Changes: Lengthening Dependency Chains

A Case Study: Fox Hunting

The Colonization of the Lifeworld

Lifeworld, System, and Colonization

Rationalization of System and Lifeworld

The Juggernaut of Modernity

The Juggernaut

Space and Time


Insecurity and Risks


Suggested Readings

6. Contemporary Theories of Everyday Life

Symbolic Interactionism



Impression Management

Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis

Defining Ethnomethodology


Some Examples

Accomplishing Gender

Exchange Theory

The Exchange Theory of George Homans

Basic Propositions

Rational Choice Theory

A Skeletal Model

Foundations of Social Theory


Suggested Readings

7. Contemporary Integrative Theories

A More Integrated Exchange Theory

Exchange Relationships and Networks


A More Integrative Exchange Theory

Structuration Theory

Elements of Structuration Theory

Culture and Agency

Habitus and Field

Bridging Subjectivism and Objectivism




Suggested Readings

8. Contemporary Feminist Theories by Patricia Madoo Lengermann and Gillian Niebrugge

The Basic Theoretical Questions

The Classical Roots

Contemporary Feminist Theories

Gender Difference

General Feminist Theories of Difference

Sociological Theories of Difference

Gender Inequality

Gender Oppression

Structural Oppression

Toward a Feminist Sociological Theory


Suggested Readings

9. Postmodern Grand Theories

The Transition from Industrial to Postindustrial Society

Increasing Governmentality (and Other Grand Theories)

Increasing Governmentality

Other Grand Theories

Postmodernity as Modernity's Coming of Age

Learning to Live with Ambivalence?

Postmodern Ethics

The Rise of Consumer Society, Loss of Symbolic Exchange, and Increase in Simulations

From Producer to Consumer Society

The Loss of Symbolic Exchange and the Increase in Simulations

The Consumer Society and the New Means of Consumption

Queer Theory: Sex and Sexuality

The Heterosexual/homosexual Binary

Performing Sex


Suggested Readings

10. Globalization Theory

Major Contemporary Theorists on Globalization

Anthony Giddens on the "Runaway World? of Globalization

Ulrich Beck and the Politics of Globalization

Zygmunt Bauman on the Human Consequences of Globalization

Cultural Theory

Cultural Differentialism

Cultural Convergence

Cultural Hybridization

Economic Theory


Critiquing Neo-Liberalism

Neo-Marxian Theoretical Alternatives to Neo-Liberalism

Transnational Capitalism

Political Theory

Other Theories

Summary Suggested Readings

New to this Edition

In Chapter 9 a new section on Queer theory, which focuses on the contemporary construction of sexuality, has been added

New Contemporary Applications boxes on the Occupy Movement, neo-Marxian spatial analysis, antidepressants, marriage statistics, and the bathroom problem have been added.

Updated key words and glossary entries, changes to the references at the end of each chapter, a number of clarifications and additions to the writing throughout have been added.

Retained Features

This text is the teaching solution for instructors who need a brief, accessible text for sociological theory. An affordable alternative to a standard text, it is concise yet comprehensive, informative, and engaging for a wide range of students.

Biographical/Autobiographical Vignettes: These boxes appear throughout each chapter and present short biographical sketches of key sociological thinkers.

Key Concepts boxes: Throughout each chapter, these boxes present important concepts that are central to the chapter material.

Contemporary Applications boxes: Throughout each chapter, these boxes present examples of how the theory or concept being discussed has been applied in modern life.

Key terms at the bottom of the page where they are discussed, as well as suggested readings and end-of-chapter summaries providing an outline summary of the chapter.

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