Social Theory: notes and 'reading guides'

I have written several pieces on social theory, including:

2005 Key Concepts in Leisure Studies, London: Sage Publications (translated into Greek 2011)
2003 Teaching Yourself Social Theory, London, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications
1996 A Society of Signs?, London and New York: Routledge (translated into S Korean 1998)
1992 From Class Struggle to the Politics of Pleasure: the effects of gramscianism in cultural studies, London and New York:  Routledge.

Find them and buy them (some are in e-book, most are available second-hand if you are broke)

This page consists of some of the background reading for these efforts.
The point is to let you gain easier access to some texts and provide you with a quick overview, so you can then see what you need to read for yourselves . Of course, the selections and discussions reflect my interests, but I have tried to summarize and paraphrase as accurately as possible too. Do go on and read the texts themselves (or the relevant sections of them for your purposes). Full bibliographic details are found in the files. 

This section is constantly being updated -- so check back often.

But first, two introductory essays, to this collection and to my book

File #1 Why Are Social Theory Courses So Difficult?

File #2 Study Skills For Social Theory?

Now my notes or reading guides:

Adlam, D.
'The case against capitalist patriarchy'

Adorno T
The Jargon of Authenticity
Negative Dialectics

Culture Industry Revisited

Free Time
'Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda'.

(with Horkheimer M) Dialectic of Enlightenment

Contributions to the Positivist Dispute in German Sociology:
Sociology and Empirical Research
On the Logic of the Social Sciences

Aglietta, M.
on world capitalism in the 1980s

Althusser L

Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses... (and another piece on ideology, the chapter on Rousseau in  Althusser L (1972) Politics and History)
Essays in Self-Criticism (includes Reply to John Lewis)
On the Student Problem (main text for Ranciere's critique)

Anderson, P
'The Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci'
'Modernity and revolution' (critique of Berman on modernity)

Aronowitz, S
'Science and Ideology'

Atkinson J and Heritage J

Structures of Social Action: Studies in Conversation Analysis (Sacks on (ethno)methodology, Button and Casey on telephone conversations, Atkinson on applause-generating strategies in political speeches)(see also Heritage).

Badiou, A
Deleuze: The Clamor of Being

The ontology of multiplicity: the singleton of the void (one of his EGS videos)

Ontology of Multiplicity: omega as event’ (follow up to the above)
Introduction to the philosophical concept of change (EGS video)
The philosophical concept of change within politics (fragment -- about modern politics)

Ball S and Goodson I (eds)

Teachers' Lives and Careers (examples of educational micropolitics) (Riseborough, Beynon,Sikes, Measor)

Barad, K
see Barad page

Barbalet, J

'Social closure in class analysis: a critique of Parkin' ( and other neo-Weberian accounts of social class)

Barthes R

Image-Music-Text (three key pieces on the death of the author, works and texts, and the new semiology).
S/Z (sporadic notes)
Camera Lucida

Baudrillard J
Simulations (I have done my best to turn this poetry back into prose...)

Bauman, Z

Towards a Critical Sociology
Mortality, Immortality and Other Life Strategies.

Beck U
Risk Society (very brief summary and some discussion)
(see also a recent  interview with Beck)

Becker H

Outsiders (the bits on labelling theory, moral entrepreneurs, replies to Gouldner etc).

Benhabib S

'Epistemologies of Postmodernism: a Rejoinder to J-F Lyotard'

Benjamin, W


Bennett, T.
( see also Bourdieu) ( see also CCCS page)
'A Revew of S Clarke's One Dimensional Marxism'

'Popular Culture: a "Teaching Object"'.

Berger P and Luckmann T

The Social Construction of Reality

Berger and Pulberg
'Reification and the Sociological Critique of Consciousness'

Bergson H

Bergsonism by Deleuze

Time and Free Will
Matter and Memory
Dreams (abridged version of the Project Gutenberg version)
Creative Evolution
Mind-Energy (a series of lectures, includes the stuff on dreams)
The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (differences in degree and kind are central here, so is intuition)
The Creative Mind

Bhaskar, R
'Realism and Social Science'

Bhaskar et al (eds) Critical Realism: essential readings (notes on a few key chapters only)

See critcisms:
'Naturalism in the Social Sciences' (Albury et al)
'Realism and Social Science' (Benton)

'Is Bhaskar's Realism Realistic?' (Chalmers)

(see also Collier)

Blumer H

The methodological position of symbolic interactionism

Sociological Analysis and the 'Variable'

Society as Symbolic Interaction

Bourdieu P
See Bourdieu page

Bottero W and Prandy K

'Interaction and social space: social distance measures of stratification'

Bowles S and Gintis H

Schooling in Capitalist America (and an important follow-up piece in 1980)

'Schooling in Capitalist America Revisited' (Jan.2002 re-examination of the evidence)

‘Becoming Woman: or Sexual Difference Revisited
Lecture on affirmation (re Deleuze and Spinoza)

Bridges, G. and Brunt, R.
Silver Linings... (brief notes on feminist and gay body politics. Mouffe on gramscianism) See also CCCS page

Butler J
Gender Trouble ( I have notes only on the last bits so far -- the bits everyone quotes on performance etc)
'Gender Trouble,Feminist Theory and Psychoanalytic Discourse'

'Gender is Burning...' (on drag and its ambivalences, in the film Paris is Burning)
‘Against Proper Objects. Introduction’ (a fascinating but complex early review of different positions in feminist, lesbian and gay and queer theories. Asides on effects of academic politics).

CCCS (and alumni) ( see also CCCS page)
The Empire Strikes Back: race and racism in the 1970s
Education Group II (on vocationalism and Thatcherism etc) (and see the brief critique of the companion volume by Hargreaves and Hammersly)
On Ideology
S. Cohen's critique on methods and politics 

Clarke, J. and Critcher, C (see also CCCS page)

The Devil Makes Work...

Clough P

The End(s) of Ethnography: from Realism to Social Criticism

Cooley, C
'Looking-Glass Self'

Coward R

Class, Culture and the Social Formation (early critique of Hall et al on the media -- see below) ( see CCCS page)

Davis K and Moore R

'Some Principles of Stratification' (classic functionalist account of social stratification)

DeCerteau M
The Practice of Everyday Life
(see also Anteby's study of 'poaching')

Deleuze (and Guattari,and Parnet)
Menu page with further links, including notes on commentaries by Baudrillard, DeLanda, Zizek

Denzin N
See Denzin page

Derrida J
Specters of Marx
Derrida Reader (ed P Kamuf)

Dews P
Habermas: Autonomy and Solidarity (Intro, covers debates with Lyotard agvnnd subsequent modifications)

Downes D and Rock P
Deviant Interpretations... (Downes and Cohen criticise marxist criminology. For Plummer's contribution to debates on labelling theory, click here)

Dunning E (alone and with others)
‘Spectator Violence at Football Matches: towards a sociological explanation' (a figurational approach)

'Sociological Reflections on Sport, Violence and Civilization' (applies Elias)

'Sport as a Drug and Drugs in Sport'

Durkheim E
The Rules of Sociological Method

Moral Education

Elson D (ed)
Two different readings of Marx's theory of value (Banaji -- Hegelian reading, Husain -- Althusserian reading)

Ettinger, B (notes from her EGS videos)
2012 ‘Maternal Subjectivity and the Matrixial Subject'

Fisher B and Strauss A
Interactionism (brief history of US interactionism from Thomas and Park to Becker and Goffman)

Fraser N
Unruly Practices (feminist critiques of Foucault, Habermas, Derrida)

Foucault M
Discipline and Punish: the birth of the prison

The Archaeology of Knowledge
History of Sexuality
What is an Author?
The Order of Discourse

See also Kendall and Wickham on Foucault's methods
See also Deleuze on Foucault

'Critical and Philosophical Hermeneutics'

Garfinkel H
'Common-Sense Knowledge of Social Structures...'

'Passing and the managed achievement of sex status in an intersexed person' (a.k.a. the Agnes study)

Gellner E
Words and Things (the key chapter on Linguistic Philosophy and Sociology)

Giddens A
Central Problems... (basics on 'structuration' versus structuralism and marxism)

Critiques of Habermas (from Profiles and Critiques...)

'Functionalism: Après la lutte' [after the struggle]

Modernity and Self-Identity...

The Consequences of Modernity (pretty brief and schematic notes)

Giddens on Modernity (a review symposium with contributions from Giddens, Beck, Robertson, Swanson and Turner)

Goffman E
Stigma: notes on the management of spoiled identity
Role distance
See also

Stebbins on role distance

Goldthorpe, J., Llewellyn, C and Payne, C.
Social Mobility and Class Structure in Modern Britain (main data, together with the Halsey companion volume). See also some recent debates

Gouldner A
The Coming Crisis in Western Sociology (only the bits criticising Goffman, Becker and Garfinkel)

Habermas J
The Analytical Theory of Science and Dialectic -- a Postscript to the Popper/Adorno Controversy
A Positivistically-Bisected Rationalism (another contribution to the Positivist Dispute)

A Postscript to Knowledge and Human Interests

Legitimation Crisis

Theory of Communicative Action (McCarthy's Intro)

'The French Path to Postmodernity...' (but ostensibly about Bataille)

Hall S (sometimes with others) ( and see CCCS page)
Culture, Media and 'The Ideology Effect' (summary with comments and links to similar discussions)

Early work on news

'The treatment of "football hooliganism" in the press'

Policing the Crisis

Recent Developments in Theories of Language and Ideology... (Hall on Coward and 'Screen Theory')

Resistance Through Rituals...

The Whites of Their Eyes: racist ideologies and the media

'The Political and The Economic in Marx's Theory of Classes'(see also Hirst)
(see the critical essay by Wood on Stuart Hall and hegemony)
'Race, Articulation and societies structured in dominance' (very good review of marxist theory with reference to race)

Halsey A, Heath A, and Ridge J
Origins and Destinations (see also the material based on the Goldthorpe companion volume and the controversies since)

Haraway D
A Cyborg Manifesto...
The Companion Species Manifesto

Situated Knowledges:The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective

Hegel G (actually via Taylor C)

Heritage, J

Hindess B
Philosophy and Methodolgy in the Social Sciences (Intro and the key chapter)

'The Politics of Social Mobility' (nice critique of the Oxford Mobility Study)

Hirst P
'Economic Classes and Politics' (a deadly, close critical reading of Althusser, Poulantzas -- and the gramscians)

Honneth A
'An Aversion Against the Universal...' (an excellent critique of Lyotard)

hooks b
The Oppositional Gaze: black female spectators


An Enquiry Into Human Understanding

Humm S (Ed)
Feminisms : A Reader

Husserl E
Cartesian Meditations

Joas H
Symbolic Interactionism (an excellent critical essay on the Chicago School)

Kuhn T
The Essential Tension (on the development of science, includes 'Second Thought on Paradigms'), and see the critical essay on Kuhn's irrationalism here

Lacan, J

(very sketchy notes on a few bits, menu page here designed mostly to see what offends Deleuze and Guattari so much)
Ecrits including The Language of the Self, with an essay by Wilden, A)

Latour B
Science in Action

Conference with O Eliasson --on the Bergson/Einstein debate
Sociology of a door closer -- the most frequently-read piece on ANT

Levi-Strauss, C
'Structural Analysis in Linguistics and in Anthropology'

The Savage Mind

Lockwood, D

Solidarity and Schism.. (the bits on Durkheim and functionalism, mostly)

Lukacs, G
History and Class Consciousness (bits on reification mostly

Lukes S

Emile Durkheim: His Life and Work (a rather odd selection of notes on 'applied' themes)

Lyotard J-F

The Post-Modern Condition... (includes Foreword by Jameson and Lyotard's 'Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism')

MacCabe C
Realism and the Cinema: Notes on Some Brechtian Theses (and some material on MacCabe's contribution to the debate about the marxist TV series Days of Hope, and a critique by Williams)

Maccannell, D
The Tourist...

Manis J and Meltzer B
Symbolic Interaction: A Reader in Social Psychology

Marcuse H

Negations (chapters on existentialism, liberalism and Weber)

Marx K

On commodity fetishism

On surplus value (DH handout -- very brief)

Critiques and debates on method (DH handout)

Revenue and Its Sources

The So-Called Primitive Accumulation (marvellous account of the real history of capitalism -- and a good intro to Marx)
See also
Marx and Stirner (article on The German Ideology)
Derrida Spectres

Matza D

Delinquency and Drift ( Early attempt to insist delinquents are normal people who have drifted into it) (and see Sykes and Matza)

Mennell S

All Manners of Food (good example of figurational analysis) 

Norbert Elias: an Introduction

Mill JS (actually via Alan Ryan)


Mulvey L

Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema' (and the follow-ups 'Afterthoughts on "Visual Pleasure"...' and  'Changes')

Murphy R

'Weberian Closure Theory'

Nietzsche, F

On the Genealogy of Morals (fairly detailed notes -- contains the main themes that get repeated and embellished elsewhere)
Ecce Homo (very brief notes only)

The Gay Science (blunt reduction to simple notes)
Thus Spake Zarathustra (heroic notes, wading through the poetry and replacing it with flat prose -- refer to Deleuze's essay and book for interpretations)
The Birth of Tragedy (gripping stuff on the eternal struggle between Apollo and Dionysus and how Greek tragic theatre relates the two).
On the Future of Our Educational Institutions (extended plea for a return to discipline and proper classical education)

Palmer R

Hermeneutics (rather brief and chatty, with some general criticisms)

Pakulski J and Waters M

'The reshaping and dissolution of social class in advanced societies'

Pelias, R
An Autobiographic Ethnography of Performance in Everyday Discourse.

Poulantzas N

Classes in Contemporary Capitalism
State Power Socialism
(and see also the exchanges with Miliband and Laclau on the nature of the State -- here)

Ramazanoglou C (ed)

Up Against Foucault (Grimshaw, Cain, Bailey, MacCannell and MacCannell)

Rancière, J
(see Rancière page)

Rocher G

Talcott Parsons and American Sociology (Intro and two chapters)

Rojek C
'Problems of involvement and detachment in the writings of Norbert Elias'

Schutz A

Phenomenology of the Social World (chs 3,4,5)

Screen Special on 'Difference'

Useful critical discussions of Lacanian approaches (Merck, Williamson, Greig, Stacey)

Sivanandan A

Communities of Resistance...  (chapter on the flaws of 'New Times' approaches)

Sloterdijk P
Cynicism as false consciousness

Sykes, G and Matza, D
Techniques of Neutralisation... (famous account of delinquency to rival subcultural theory)

Taylor I, Walton P and Young J (and others)

The New Criminology (opening statement - marxist critiques of existing approaches in criminology)
'Values in deviancy theory and society' (useful early article criticising positivists and interactionists re the fact/value distinction)

Critical Criminology (middle piece -- marxist critiques extended)

Capitalism and the Rule of Law (final stage - marxist objects identified -- critique of the State)

Turner B

For Weber... (only three chapters summarised, on relations with neomarxism, and on theodicy)
Turner and Edmonds on the post-war Australian elite and their leisure pursuits

Urry J
The Tourist Gaze (classic excellent account of cultural implications of pomo and implications for tourism)

van Krieken R

'The barbarism of civilization: cultural genocide and the "stolen generations"' (on Elias)
'The organisation of the soul: Elias and Foucault on discipline and the self''

Walkerdine, V
'Video Replay: families, films and fantasy' (fizzes with ideas for media research!)

Westoby A (ed)

Culture and Power in Educational Organisations (Weick, Ouchi and Wilkins, Meyer and Rowan, Bachrach. On micropolitics, and with nice critical counters to much management theory)

Willis P (see also CCCS page)

Common Culture

Learning to Labour...

Notes on Method

Profane Cultures (very brief)

School Production and Theories of Reproduction (important amendments to Learning to Labour)

Winch P

The Idea of a Social Science...

Women's Study Group (see CCCS page)

Women Take Issue... (excellent feminist critiques and extensions of CCCS approaches)

See other collections on Leisure/Cultural Studies
on Education Studies

back to files