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French Post-War Social Theory

French Post-War Social Theory
International Knowledge Transfer

December 2011 | 216 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

French social and philosophical thought has played a very significant role in the development of European and American social theory. This detailed, timely book provides a map of the production and reception of French social thought within a global sociological context.

Critically comparing the work of five key theorists Derek Robbins examines how their ideas were produced and received before persuasively setting out the key differences between their philosophical and ideological positions.

The book sensitively traces the cross-currents of social theory and confidently leads the reader through the complex foundations of Western social thought. Each chapter represents a textual analysis of the production of a critical intellectual and focuses upon the work of:

  • Althusser
  • Foucault
  • Aron
  • Lyotard
  • Bourdieu

This carefully crafted volume represents a significant contribution to the globalization of theory and will be essential reading for anyone interested in Western social theory and the foundations of sociological thought.


Raymond Aron (1905-83)
Louis Althusser (1918-90)
Michel Foucault (1926-84)
Jean-François Lyotard (1924-98)
Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002)
Preliminary Concluding Comments

Derek Robbins has shown once again that he is one of the few Anglophone scholars with an exceptionally profound and impressively comprehensive knowledge of the history of modern European social thought. This book is a must for anybody interested in twentieth-century French social theory. The coverage is wide-ranging; the information provided is authoritative; complex ideas are presented in an accessible language; key controversies are explained in an eloquent and thought-provoking fashion; and, perhaps most importantly, seemingly abstract tensions between intellectual positions are put into historical context. Robbins's willingness to engage not only with the secondary literature but also, closely and extensively, with primary sources makes this a particularly worthwhile book at a time in which French social theory has been prematurely pronounced dead. In fact, Robbins successfully demonstrates that we have every reason to believe that it is very much alive. This book is an indispensable guide to anyone seeking to make sense of the main developments in French post-war social theory, as well as of the substantial impact that these developments have had, and will continue to have, on contemporary intellectual thought.

Dr Simon Susen
City University, London

Derek Robbins is at the top of his game and this book makes a telling - if controversial - contribution to our understanding of the circulation of French social theory into Britain and America. In doing so, it has introduced a subtle new dimension of the sociology of knowledge, showing how ideas and concepts may become torn out of their original historical context and reframed to fit different political or theoretical interests.

Bridget Fowler
Professor of Sociology, University of Glasgow

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ISBN: 9781473971868

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