by Frank W. Elwell
Rogers State University
|Contemporary Evolutionary Oriented Social Theorists:|
|Population, Production, Environment:||Economic Systems:||Rationalization & Bureaucracy:|
|Leslie A. White||Harry Braverman||C. Wright Mills|
|Marvin Harris||Andre Gunder Frank||Krishan Kumar|
|Gerhard E. Lenski||Immanuel Wallerstein||Samir Amin|
|Stephen K. Sanderson||Janet Abu-Lughod||George Ritzer|
|Robert Carneiro||John Bellamy Foster||Randall Collins|
|Ester Boserup||Modern Social Theorists||Classical Social Theorists|
Alfred North Whitehead said that "a science which hesitates to forget its founders is lost." In this respect the teaching of social theory, particularly macro social theory, is too often focused on the founders. Undergraduate texts give ample discussion of the canonical works of Marx, Weber and Durkheim but little when it comes to the theories of contemporary practitioners. My book, Macrosociology: Four Modern Theorists (Paradigm, 2006) seeks to remedy this with a focus on 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.
I am currently working on Sociocultural Systems: Contemporary Expression of Classical Theory for the Edwin Mellen Press. This book is intended to introduce students to the classical social theory of T. Robert Malthus, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber as well as the modern expressions of these perspectives. It does this through two mechanisms. First, it provides an overview and critique of four major classical traditions in sociology. Rather than discussing these theories as history, the book will focus upon elements of the perspectives that have proved useful in understanding sociocultural systems. Then, the book will provide an overview and critique of the perspective and analysis of two contemporary social scientists writing within each of these traditions. As modern representatives of Malthusian theory, the book will examine the theories of Gerhard Lenski and Stephen K. Sanderson. For contemporary followers of Marx the theories of Harry Braverman and John Bellamy Foster will be examined. Representing the Durkheimian worldview will be Stjepan Mestrovic, Robert K. Merton, and Neil Postman. Finally, modern day Weberians are represented by Norbert Elias and George Ritzer. The overarching goal of the book is to provide students with an in-depth understanding of each of the classical sociological traditions and their usefulness in understanding contemporary societies. Through study of contemporary social scientists such as Lenski, Braverman, Mestrovic, and Elias students will truly come to appreciate the breadth and depth of classical social theory as well as its usefulness in understanding contemporary and historical sociocultural systems. The book's concluding chapter demonstrates how the various perspectives detailed in the book are compatible with a comprehensive sociological worldview.
The Industrial Revolution continues. Recently,
we have entered a "hyperindustrial" phase in which massive industrial and
population changes begun in the 17th century are disrupting the remaining
vestiges of traditional institutions as well as the norms and values of
western societies. Drawing on the work of classical and neo-classical theorists,
Industrializing America: Understanding Contemporary Society through
Classical Sociological Analysis (Praeger, 1999) is an attempt to
integrate and synthesize these insight into a comprehensive world view.