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Classical Sociological Theory

Classical Sociological Theory

Eighth Edition

Other Titles in:
Social Theory

April 2020 | 608 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

The authors are proud sponsors of the 2020 SAGE Keith Roberts Teaching Innovations Award—enabling graduate students and early career faculty to attend the annual ASA pre-conference teaching and learning workshop.

Classical Sociological Theory, Eighth Edition, provides a comprehensive overview of the major theorists and schools of sociological thought from the Enlightenment roots of theory through the early 20th century. The integration of key theories with biographical sketches of theorists and the requisite historical and intellectual context helps students to better understand the original works of classical authors as well as to compare and contrast classical theories.
About the Authors
Part I: Introduction to Classical Sociological Theory
Chapter 1: A Historical Sketch of Sociological Theory: The Early Years

Premodern Sociological Theory

Social Forces in the Development of Sociological Theory

Intellectual Forces and the Rise of Sociological Theory

The Development of French Sociology

The Development of German Sociology

The Origins of British Sociology

The Key Figure in Early Italian Sociology

Non-European Classical Theory

The Contemporary Relevance of Classical Sociological Theory


Chapter 2: A Historical Sketch of Sociological Theory: The Later Years
Early American Sociological Theory

Sociological Theory to Midcentury

Sociological Theory from Midcentury

Late Twentieth-Century Integrative Theory

Theories of Modernity and Postmodernity

Social Theory in the Twenty-First Century


Part II: Classical Sociological Theory
Chapter 3: Alexis de Tocqueville
Comparative Study

American Politics

The Sociology in Tocqueville’s Work

The Key Sociological Problem(s)

Freedom, Democracy, and Socialism


Contemporary Applications


Chapter 4: Auguste Comte
Comte’s Profound Ambitions

Comte’s Sociology

Theory and Practice

Criticisms and Contributions


Chapter 5: Herbert Spencer
Spencer and Comte

General Theoretical Principles


The Evolution of Society

Ethics and Politics

Criticisms and Contemporary Applications


Chapter 6: Karl Marx

The Dialectic

Dialectical Method

Human Potential

The Structures of Capitalist Society

Materialist Conception of History

Cultural Aspects of Capitalist Society

Marx’s Economics: A Case Study



Contemporary Applications


Chapter 7: Emile Durkheim

Social Facts

The Division of Labor in Society


The Elementary Forms of Religious Life

Moral Education and Social Reform


Contemporary Applications


Chapter 8: Max Weber

Substantive Sociology


Contemporary Applications


Chapter 9: Georg Simmel
Primary Concerns

Individual Consciousness and Individuality

Social Interaction (“Association”)

Social Structures and Worlds

Objective Culture

The Philosophy of Money

Secrecy: A Case Study in Simmel’s Sociology


Contemporary Applications


Chapter 10: Early Women Sociologists and Classical Sociological Theory: 1830–1930
Harriet Martineau (1802–1876)

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860–1935)

Jane Addams (1860–1935) and the Chicago Women’s School

Anna Julia Cooper (1858–1964) and Ida Wells-Barnett (1862–1931)

Marianne Schnitger Weber (1870–1954)

Beatrice Potter Webb (1858–1943)

Contemporary Applications


Chapter 11: W. E. B. Du Bois
Intellectual Influences

Studying Race Scientifically: The Philadelphia Negro

Theoretical Contributions


Karl Marx, Socialism, and Communism

Contemporary Applications


Chapter 12: Thorstein Veblen
Intellectual Influences

Basic Premises

Substantive Issues

Criticisms and Contemporary Applications


Chapter 13: Joseph Schumpeter
Creative Destruction

Schumpeter’s Broader Economic Theory

Toward a More Dynamic Theory of the Economy

Schumpeter’s Sociology

The Future

Contemporary Applications


Chapter 14: Karl Mannheim
The Sociology of Knowledge

Ideology and Utopia

Rationality and the Irrationality of the Times

Criticisms and Contemporary Applications


Chapter 15: George Herbert Mead
Intellectual Roots

The Priority of the Social

The Act

Mental Processes and the Mind



Criticisms and Contemporary Applications


Chapter 16: Alfred Schutz
The Ideas of Edmund Husserl

Science and the Social World

Typifications and Recipes

The Life-World


Realms of the Social World

Consciousness, Meanings, and Motives

Criticisms and Contemporary Applications


Chapter 17: Talcott Parsons
Parsons’s Integrative Efforts

General Principles

The Action System

Change and Dynamism in Parsonsian Theory

Criticisms and Contemporary Applications


Name Index
Subject Index

Thank you. I liked the book and adopted.

Dr Masako Endo
Sociology Dept, Drexel University
March 13, 2024

An excellent survey of classical sociological theory with supplemental biographies of theorists in the textbook.

Dr Bill Brocato
Social Sciences Dept, Univ Of Maryland Eastern Shore
December 14, 2020

George Ritzer

George Ritzer is Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, where he has also been a Distinguished Scholar-Teacher and won a Teaching Excellence Award. He was awarded the Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award by the American Sociological Association, an honorary doctorate from LaTrobe University in Australia, and the Robin Williams Lectureship from the Eastern Sociological Society. His best-known work, The McDonaldization of Society (8th ed.), has been read by hundreds of thousands of students over two decades and translated into over a dozen languages. Ritzer is also the editor of McDonaldization: The Reader... More About Author

Jeffrey N. Stepnisky

Jeffrey Stepnisky is an Associate Professor of Sociology at MacEwan University in Alberta, Canada, where he teaches classical and contemporary social theory. He has published in the area of social theory, especially as it relates to questions of subjectivity, in journals such as The Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior and Social Theory & Health. Along with this book he is co-author of Sociological Theory, Classical Sociological Theory, and Modern Sociological Theory, and has co-edited the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Major Social Theorists, all with George Ritzer. More About Author

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ISBN: 9781544354828