`This is a wide-ranging and authoritative analysis of sociology's 'state-of-the-art'. It will set the terms of debate for the next decade' - John Urry, Lancaster University, U.K.`The profession of sociology was blessed by abundance of excellent handbooks. The one edited by Craig Calhoun, Christ Rojek and Bryan Turner was preceded by outstanding sociology handbooks, the most eminent ones by Robert Farris and E Lee published in 1964 and a more recent one by Neil Smelser in1988. The volume by Farris and Lee not only served as an introductory text to the discipline, but contained many innovative papers, which re-oriented social research for years to come. Smelser brought together the best possible and most polished overview of the contributions professional sociology at his time. The Calhoun-Rojek-Turner Handbook combines the best of these traditions. It gives a comprehensive overview of our field, much like Smelser's book did, but it is also daringly innovative - reminiscent to some of the by now classical chapters of the Farris-Lee treatise - in terms of giving voice to new areas of investigations, inviting contributions not only from established figures but also from younger talented scholars. This new Handbook of Sociology bravely confronts the epochal changes of our times, the new problems of the new global world order, it avoids the temptations to impose on the discipline any over-arching paradigm or methodology and forcefully combines professional or scientific approaches to sociology with politically engaged public sociologies. The book will recruit socially committed and scientifically ambitious students to major in sociology if used in introductory undergraduate courses but even graduate students will benefit reading it in trying to identify where the cutting edges of their professions might be' - Ivan Szelenyi, Yale University 'This Handbook of Sociology breaks new grounds by bringing together top European and American sociologists. The contributions provide a fresh perspective on many of the most recent developments in the field of sociology. This volume will prove to be a very useful tool for researchers and students across the social sciences. It will set the agenda for a more integrated, yet plural, sociology' - Michele Lamont, Harvard University, author of The Dignity of Working Men: Morality and the Boundaries of Race, Class and ImmigrationSociology has evolved greatly since it's inception as an academic discipline. It has diverged into numerous strands often flowing in disparate directions - so much so that today the notion of canonical sociology has become widely disputed. The field of sociology at present approximates to one of multi-paradigmatic complexity in which many approaches to theory must be distinguished and situated. In addition, the discipline has had to confront new challenges from globalization, the shift of interest from production to consumption, the rise of new social movements, the challenge of bio-engineering, the collapse of a 'presently existing socialist alternative' and much else besides. The new SAGE Handbook of Sociology aims to address these new developments, while at the same time providing an authoritative guide to theory and method, the key sub-disciplines and the primary debates of today. To undertake this ambitious project three leading figures in the field of sociology were selected as editors to bring together the foremost exponents of the different strands that contribute towards the make up modern sociology. Drawn from both sides of the Atlantic the contributors have been commissioned to utilise the most up to date research available to provide a critical, international analysis of their area of expertise. The result is this essential resource collection that not just reflects upon the condition of sociology today but also looks to future developments in the discipline. The Handbook will be invaluable not just all sociologists but to a wide variety of students and researchers across the social sciences.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Sociology, like human society, is varied, contested and constantly changing. It is hard to capture from a single perspective, and hard to describe with finality. This does not mean there are no regular patterns, no enduring features, or no basis for science. But it does mean that as a science sociology faces a distinctive challenge. Its object of study – society or social relations – is more subject to historical change and human choice than the objects of the physical and biological sciences. It is also broader and more complex than the specific dimensions of social life singled out by the narrower, more specialized social sciences like politics, economics, and geography. And precisely because human society is open to choice and historical change, and ...