This comprehensive book provides an indispensable introduction to the most significant figures in contemporary social theory. Grounded strongly in the European tradition, the profiles include Michel Foucault, J[um]urgen Habermas, Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, Pierre Bourdieu, Zygmunt Bauman, Martin Heidegger, Frederic Jameson, Richard Rorty, Nancy Chodorow, Anthony Giddens, Stuart Hall, Luce Irigaray and Donna Haraway. In guiding students through the key figures in an accessible and authoritative fashion, the book provides detailed accounts of the development of the work of major social theorists and charts the relationship between different traditions of social, cultural and political thought.

Roland Barthes

Roland Barthes

Roland Barthes

Biographical Details and Theoretical Context

Roland Barthes (1915–80) was the most celebrated post-structuralist stylist of his generation. It was a status he attained only after a lengthy association with structuralism. For a decade and a half, Barthes was pivotal in the project of trying to situate literary and cultural criticism upon a quasi-scientific footing. In works like Writing Degree Zero (1965), Mythologies (1957), Elements of Semiology (1965) and The Fashion System (1967) he laid out the formal principles of semiology, the science of signs. Semiology was, perhaps, the high-water mark of structuralist rhetoric. It was an approach which promised nothing less than the démystification of culture and communication. It was a noble but, with hindsight, giddy, turn in the history of ideas.

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