Rethinking Contemporary Social Theory

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2013-07-30
  • Publisher: Routledge

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This new textbook introduces students to a new, comprehensive understanding of sociological theory, showing its application to the contemporary world. The authors argue that in recent decades sociology has been deeply permeated by a new paradigm, conflict constructionism, characterized by eight focal concerns: the micro-level; discourses, framing, and renewed interest in signs and language; the construction of difference and dominance; regulation and punishment; cultural complexity and transculturation; the body; new approaches to the role of the state; and a consistent conflict perspective. The paradigm combines elements of both social construction theory and conflict theory. It has deep roots in critical theory and more recent links to postmodernism. It is associated with postmodern social thought although it is less radical and more adaptable to empirical inquiry than postmodernism. The paradigm incorporates elements of Marxist analysis but adjusts them to new global realities and eschews old orthodoxies. In the historical trajectory of many sub-fields of sociology, conflict constructionism emerged after an intense engagement with conflict theories in the 1970s and early 1980s. Drawing on Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, the authors identify causes for this paradigm shift, which include the contributions of specific individuals, the general intellectual climate, and various social changes such as globalization and neo-liberalism. Conflict constructionism emerged to address puzzles and problems in the conflict paradigms of the 1970s. As a result, old perspectives were re-evaluated, presuppositions were rethought, and new tools for social analysis emerged to confront these new conditions. The sub-fields of sociology differ markedly in the degree to which scholars have embraced this new paradigm as a whole, have accepted specific elements of it, or have rejected or ignored it. The authors select ten fields (or broad topic areas) within sociology and in each one trace the reception and impact of the new paradigm. The fields selected by the authors are: the construction of difference and dominance in gender, sexuality, and race/ethnicity; culture in global perspective; the media; the sociology of the self; urban sociology; political sociology and the study of collective action; class and socio-economic inequality; the field formerly known as the sociology of deviance; sociology of family life; and sociology of health.

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