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Explorations in Classical Sociological Theory

Explorations in Classical Sociological Theory
Seeing the Social World

Fourth Edition
  • Kenneth Allan - University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA
  • Sarah Daynes - University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA

Other Titles in:
Social Theory

November 2016 | 368 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

Praised for its conversational tone, personal examples, and helpful pedagogical tools, the Fourth Edition of Explorations in Classical Sociological Theory: Seeing the Social World is organized around the modern ideas of progress, knowledge, and democracy.  With this historical thread woven throughout the chapters, the book presents a diverse selection of major classical theorists including Marx, Spencer, Durkheim, Weber, Mead, Simmel, Martineau, Gilman, Douglass, Du Bois, Parsons, and the Frankfurt School. Kenneth Allan and new co-author Sarah Daynes focus on the specific views of each theorist, rather than schools of thought, and highlight modernity and postmodernity to help contemporary readers understand how classical sociological theory applies to their lives.  

1. Beginning to See: A Sociological Core
The Making of Modernity and the Modern Way of Knowing

Institutions of Modernity

The Birth of Sociology: August Comte

Comte’s Positivism

The Evolution of Knowledge


Advantages and Goals of Positivism

Seeing Society

Sociological Methods

Practicing Theory—A Summary

Building Your Theory Toolbox

2. Seeing Society for the First Time: Herbert Spencer
Theorist’s Digest

The Sociological Imagination of Herbert Spencer

Spencer’s Life

Spencer’s Social World

Spencer’s Sociological Imagination: Functionalism

Concepts and Theory: Social Evolution

The Social System

System Needs

Differentiation and Specialization

Types of Society

Regulatory Complexity

Industrial and Militaristic

Concepts and Theory: Social Institutions

Domestic Institutions

Ceremonial Institutions

Ecclesiastical Institutions

Thinking About Modernity and Postmodernity

Defining Postmodernity

Religion: A Postmodern Case in Point


Building Your Theory Toolbox

3. Class Inequality: Karl Marx
Theorist’s Digest

The Sociological Imagination of Karl Marx

Marx’s Life

Marx’s Social World

Marx’s Intellectual World

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach

Adam Smith

Marx’s Sociological Imagination: Critical Conflict Theory

Human Nature

History—The Material Dialectic

Concepts and Theory: The Contradictions of Capitalism

Value and Exploitation

Industrialization, Markets, and Commodification

Concepts and Theory: Class Revolution

Class and Class Structure


Concepts and Theory: The Problem of Ideology and Consciousness

Alienation, Private Property, and Commodity Fetish

False Consciousness and Religion

Class Consciousness

Thinking About Modernity and Postmodernity

Machines of Production and Consciousness

Machines of Reproduction and Schizophrenic Culture


Building Your Theory Toolbox

4. Diversity and Social Solidarity: Émile Durkheim
Theorist’s Digest

The Sociological Imagination of Émile Durkheim

Durkheim’s Life

Durkheim’s Social World

Durkheim’s Intellectual World


Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Durkheim’s Contribution to Functionalism

Durkheim’s Sociological Imagination: Cultural Sociology

Concepts and Theory: Primal Society

Defining Religion

Creating a Sacred World

Concepts and Theory: Social Diversity and Moral Consensus

Mechanical and Organic Solidarity

The Division of Labor

The Problem With Modern Society

Organic Solidarity and Social Pathology

Concepts and Theory: Individualism


The Cult of the Individual

Thinking About Modernity and Postmodernity

Grand Narratives, Doubt, and Civil Religion


Building Your Theory Toolbox

5. Rationality and Organization: Max Weber
Theorist’s Digest

The Sociological Imagination of Max Weber

Weber’s Life

Weber’s Social World

Weber’s Intellectual World

The Problems of Values and Meaning

Specific Methods: Ideal Types

Specific Methods: Verstehen

Weber’s Sociological Imagination

Concepts and Theory: The Process of Rationalization

Types of Social Action

Concepts and Theory: The Evolution of Religion

From Magic to Religion

From Polytheism to Ethical Monotheism

Concepts and Theory: The Rise of Capitalism

The Religious Culture of Capitalism

Structural Influences on Capitalism

Concepts and Theory: Class, Authority, and Social Change


Status and Party

Crosscutting Stratification

Authority and Social Change

Concepts and Theory: Rational-Legal Organization

Ideal-Type Bureaucracies

Effects of Bureaucratic Organization

Thinking About Modernity and Postmodernity


Building Your Theory Toolbox

6. The Modern Person: George Herbert Mead and Georg Simmel
George Herbert Mead—Symbolic Interaction

Theorist’s Digest

Concepts and Theory: Truth, Meaning, and Action

Pragmatic Truth

Human Action

Concepts and Theory: Meaning and Interaction

Symbolic Interaction

Concepts and Theory: Making Yourself

The Mind

Stages of Role Taking

Self and Society

The I and the Me


Georg Simmel—Formal Sociology

Theorist’s Digest

Concepts and Theory: The Individual in Society

Subjective and Objective Cultures

Concepts and Theory: The Self in the City

The Division of Labor

Money and Markets

Social Networks: Rational Versus Organic Group Membership


Thinking About Modernity and Postmodernity

Simulacrum and Hyperreality

Reflexivity and the Fragmenting of the Self

Fusing the I and the Me

Building Your Theory Toolbox

7. Seeing Gender: Harriett Martineau and Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Waves of Feminism

Harriet Martineau—Gender and Democracy

Theorist’s Digest

Concepts and Theory: Observing Society

Morals and Manners

Preparing the Observer

Safeguarding Observations

Concepts and Theory: Gender and Democracy

Gender and Family

The Cultural Logic of Gender

Workforce Participation

Concepts and Theory: Religion, Education, and Democracy

Religious Forms

Religious Forms and Democracy

Conditions of Religion

Education and Freedom


Charlotte Perkins Gilman—The Evolution of Gender

Theorist’s Digest

Concepts and Theory: Critical Evolution Theory

Functional Evolution

Adding Marx

Gynaecocentric Theory

Concepts and Theory: Dynamics of Social Evolution

Morbid Excess in Sex Distinction

Sexuo-Economic Effects


Building Your Theory Toolbox

8. Seeing Race: Frederick Douglass and W. E. B. Du Bois
Race Literature

Frederick Douglass—The American Discourse of Race

Theorist’s Digest

Concepts and Theory: The Discourse of Slavery

Race as Other

Democracy and Universalism


W. E. B. Du Bois—The Culture of Race

Theorist’s Digest

Concepts and Theory: The Experience of Oppression and Critical Knowledge

Standpoint of the Oppressed

Concepts and Theory: Cultural Oppression

Exclusion From History


Stereotypes and Slippery Slopes

Double Consciousness

Concepts and Theory: The Dark Nations and World Capitalism

The Need for Color


Gender and Race: Thinking About Modernity and Postmodernity

Modernity and Identity

The Postmodern Twist

Building Your Theory Toolbox

9. Seeing Ahead: Defining Moments in Twentieth Century Theory: Talcott Parsons and the Frankfurt School
Talcott Parsons: Defining Sociology

Parsons’s Vision for the Social Sciences

Parsons’s Theoretical Project

Parsons and the Problem of Social Order

Voluntaristic Action

Patterning Voluntaristic Action

The Frankfurt School: Critiquing Modernity

Historical Roots

The Problem with Positivism: Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno

An Analysis of Art and Culture

Building Your Theory Toolbox

About the Authors

“I have [been] using Allan's books since I started teaching social theory courses as an adjunct in grad school. [He] takes complicated materials that can be very dense and obtuse [and presents] concepts in a straightforward manner. The writing clarity stands on its own.”

William G. Holt
Birmingham-Southern College

“Allan does a much better job of setting the scene for [an] understanding of Classical Theory than other texts I have used in the past. He also speaks in lay terms so that undergraduates [can] grasp the material.”

Eileen Connell
Colorado State University

“I feel that the Sociological Imagination sections, Theoretical Hints, Enduring Issues, and Theory Toolboxes are especially useful to my students.”

Stephanie Bucy
Columbia College

“[Explorations in Classical Sociology Theory] makes accessible to undergraduates rather difficult material. [It] sets theories in the context of major conceptual frameworks and orientations [and] offers contemporary interpretations and applications.”

Rachel Filinson
Rhode Island College

This is the clearest introduction to classical social and sociological theory available today. Dr. Allan's writing is straightforward, and invites his readers into the material. His examples are relevant to today's students. I have used it for many years, and my students who have gone on to do graduate work tell me it is the one undergraduate textbook they keep, and constantly return to. That is high praise for an undergraduate textbook.

Dr Linda Derksen
Sociology Dept, Vancouver Island Univ-Nanaimo
January 29, 2018

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Chapter 9

For instructors

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