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Macmillan Higher Education Palgrave Higher Education

Social Theory for Alternative Societies

ISBN 9781137337320
Publication Date March 2016
Formats Paperback Ebook Hardcover 
Publisher Palgrave

This book traces a unique story of social theory: one which focuses on its role in offering ideas for alternative societies. In charting this story, Matt Dawson argues that the differences in alternatives offered by social theorists not only demonstrate the diversity in, and value of, sociological perspectives, but also emphasize competing ideas of the role of intellectuals in social change.

The text discusses a collection of social theorists –from key figures such as Marx, Durkheim and Du Bois to less well known or now commonly overlooked writers such as Levitas, Lefebvre and Mannheim. It explains their use of the tools of sociology to critique society and provide visions for alternatives, highlighting elements of the intellectual backgrounds of movements such as socialism, anti-racism, feminism and cosmopolitanism.

Social Theory for Alternative Societies not only explores in detail a variety of thinkers, but also reflects on the relevance of sociology today and on the connection between social theory and the 'real world.' Thus it will be of interest to students of sociology and those interested in ideas for a better society.

Matt Dawson is a lecturer in Sociology at the University of Glasgow, UK. He is the author of Late Modernity, Individualization and Socialism: An Associational Critique of Neoliberalism (2013, Palgrave Macmillan) and co-editor of Stretching the Sociological Imagination: Essays in Honour of John Eldridge (2015, Palgrave Macmillan).

1. Should Sociologists Offer Alternatives? Value-Free and Critical Sociologies
2. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: 'Recipes for the Cook-shops of the Future'
3. Émile Durkheim: Curing the Malaise
4. W.E.B. Du Bois: A Black Radical Alternative
5. George Herbert Mead and Karl Mannheim: Sociology and Democracy
6. Henri Lefebvre and Herbert Marcuse: Neo-Marxist Alternatives
7. Selma James, Andrea Dworkin and Their Interlocutors: Feminist Alternatives
8. Anthony Giddens and Ulrich Beck: Cosmopolitan Alternatives
9. Sociology and Utopia
10. Public Sociology
11. Conclusion: Sociology and Alternatives.


Original, intriguing and accessible. Sociologists often criticise the world. Immersed in a range of perspectives and themes, Dawson tells us what they think the alternative is' –Luke Martell, University of Sussex, UK.
'If the study of society does not start from a repudiation of the obscenity of today's world and a search for alternatives, it is worse than pointless, it is complicit. Placing the search for alternatives in the centre of a broad survey of the discipline, this book is original and welcome.' –John Holloway, Autonomous University of Puebla, Mexico.
'Beyond being a sensitive reader and effective communicator of social theory, Dawson demonstrates well the effective history of these ideas... This is an engaging work which will have wide appeal, and is a timely rejoinder to accusations of abstraction, resignation and irrelevance aimed at social theory.' - Jack Palmer, University of Leeds.
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