From the team that brought you the bestselling Understanding Classical Sociology (SAGE Publications, 1995), we now have a companion volume dealing with the modern period of social theory. An introductory chapter situates the reader in the main changes in society and sociology following the classic period. This is then followed by separate chapters giving a detailed account of four perspectives that are regarded to be of seminal importance - Functionalism, Critical Theory, Structuralism and Symbolic Interactionism. All of the popular features of Understanding Classical Sociology are reproduced in this book: · Clarity of exposition and criticism· A passion for the importance and relevance of sociological reasoning and explanation· A commitment to treat social theory as a living tradition of thought In addition, the volume comes with a variety of pedagogic aids including summary points and key definitions to facilitate learning and study.This is a book that enhances the sociological imagination. It draws on the authors deep understanding and experience of teaching the subject over many decades. It will be welcomed by lecturers as a vital new teaching and research aid, and students will be stimulated and enriched by the unfussy and reliable advice on doing sociology that it imparts.



Beginning Chapter Five

In contrast to Parsonian functionalism, interactionism had much more modest aims, namely, the study of social interaction from ‘the actor's point of view’. The chapter includes discussion of:

  • the contribution of G.H. Mead;
  • the early years of the Chicago School;
  • the contribution of Herbert Blumer and the formulation of symbolic interactionism;
  • studies of work and of deviance;
  • the next generation: Becker, Strauss, and Goffman.

The approach to the analysis of society developed by those who became known as symbolic interactionists presents a stark contrast to the functionalist theories of Talcott Parsons and Robert Merton discussed in Chapter 2. Parsons and those who thought like him aimed to construct nothing less than an all-encompassing general theory of society which, they hoped, would ultimately resemble the theories of the natural ...

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