Handbook of Social Theory

by George Ritzer, Barry Smart

This book is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the roots, current debates and future development of social theory. It draws together a team of outstanding international scholars and presents an authoritative and panoramic critical survey of the field.

The volume is divided into three parts. The first part examines the classical tradition. Included here are critical discussions of Comte, Spencer, Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Simmel, Mead, Freud, Mannheim and classical feminist thought. This part conveys the classical tradition as a living resource in social theory, it demonstrates not only the critical significance of classical writings, but their continuing relevance.

The second part moves on to examine the terrain of contemporary social theory. The contributions discuss the significance and strengths and weaknesses of structural functionalism, recent Marxian theory, critical theory, symbolic interactionism, phenomenology, ethnomethodology, exchange theory, rational choice, contemporary feminism, multiculturalism, postmodernism, the thought of Foucault and Habermas, and figurational sociology. The reader gains a comprehensive and informed picture of the key issues and central figures of the day.

The final part ranges over the key debates in current social theory. Questions relating to positivism, metatheorizing, cultural studies, consumption, sexualities, the body, globalism, nationalism, socialism, knowledge societies, ethics and morality, as well as post-social relations are fully discussed. The dilemmas and promise of contemporary social theory are revealed with pinpoint accuracy.


  • SAGE Publications; January 2001
  • ISBN: 9781847876737
  • Edition: 1
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: Handbook of Social Theory
  • Author: George Ritzer (ed.); Barry Smart (ed.)
  • Imprint: SAGE Publications Ltd

In The Press

`This book is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the roots, current debates and future development of social theory. It will be required reading for scholars and students in sociology, social philosophy and cultural studies... A genuine comprehensive treatment that provides a bridge between European and American perspectives, serving the needs of students and teachers in social sciences' - The Hindu

`Ritzer and Smart provide a judicious editorial guide to the complexities of social theory from the classics to contemporary approaches. A genuinely comprehensive treatment that provides a bridge between European and American perspectives, the Handbook will serve the needs of students and teachers in the social sciences - a laudable work of theoretical integration' - Bryan S Turner, University of Cambridge

`We are in the midst of a great change: social theory is replacing sociological theory. Ritzer and Smart make use of the time-honored device of the "Handbook" to bring order to this new, often conflicting, and often confusing, intellectual field. They bring together a sparkling array of articles by some of the best minds in contemporary sociological theory. The result is a significant clarification of the transition from sociological to social theory that we are undergoing today' - Jeffrey Alexander, University of California