Four Modern Theorists

The S
By Frank W. Elwell


“There are only a small handful of books for students on macrosociology, but Frank Elwell’s can happily be added to the list. Elwell’s book is a short version of a longer one he apparently plans to write and covers four macrosociological theorists: C. Wright Mills, Marvin Harris, Immanuel Wallerstein, and Gerhard Lenski. Each gets one chapter, and there is a short concluding chapter in which the author compares and contrasts all four thinkers, mainly with respect to their analyses of the rise of capitalism… Elwell’s coverage of each theorist is accurate and thorough. He has a very good command of the major works of all four, and presents their ideas in clear, accessible, and unpretentious prose. There is almost none of the distortion, selective treatment, or outright misunderstandings and misrepresentations that one too often finds in the literature.”

--Stephen K. Sanderson, University of California, Riverside



This book examines the work of four modern theorists who have taken on the larger themes of classical social theory. C. Wright Mills, Marvin Harris, Immanuel Wallerstein, and Gerhard Lenski have examined such phenomena and processes as the rise and impact of capitalism, the centralization and enlargement of authority, inequality, and the intensification of production and population. Borrowing what is useful from the classics as well as relying on contemporary practitioners and empirical evidence, each theorist adds his own insights and interpretations in constructing a comprehensive perspective of sociocultural stability and change. This book fully summarizes and documents each perspective using language and examples that resonate with the general reader. A short biography on each theorist is also provided.

Table of Contents:

Prologue: The Past
Chapter 1: The Sociology of C. Wright Mills
Power and Authority
Mass Society
Social Problems
Role of Social Science
The Sociological Imagination
Excursus: Modern American Bureaucracy
About Mills
Chapter 2: Marvin Harris’s Cultural Materialism
Universal Patterns
The Research Strategy
Individual Behavior
Role of Elites
Harris and Marx
The Domestication of Plants and Animals
The Industrial Revolution
Excursus: Recent Intensification of the American Infrastructure
About Harris
Chapter 3: Wallerstein’s World-Systems Analysis
The Capitalist World System
Capitalist World-System Stability and Change
The Decline and Fall of the Capitalist World-System
Excursus: Declining Profits and Hegemony?
About Wallerstein
Chapter 4: Gerhard Lenski’s Ecological-Evolutionary Theory
Social Evolution
Excursus: Inequality Revisited
About Lenski
Chapter 5: Meta-Analysis
The Rise of Capitalism
Excursus: The Growth of Bureaucracy

Paradigm Publishers
ISBN: 978-1-59451-258-2
Publish date: October 2006

Related sites:
Classical Theorists
In the Classical Tradition

Elwell's Homepage

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