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British Social Theory
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British Social Theory
Recovering Lost Traditions before 1950



July 2018 | 184 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
A unique contribution to discussions of social theory, this book counters the argument that no social theory was ever produced in Britain before the late twentieth  century. Reviewing a period of 300 years from the seventeenth century to the mid-twentieth century, it sets out a number of innovative strands in theory that culminated in powerful contributions in the classical period of sociology. The book discusses how these traditions of theory were lost and forgotten and sets out why they are important today.


 
 
Chapter 1 Was There a Failure of British Social Theory?
 
Foundations of Social Thought
 
Chapter 2 Social Thought in Mainstream Philosophy: Towards a Science of Social Structure
 
Chapter 3 Difference, Diversity, and Development in the Social Organism
 
Chapter 4 The Romantic Critique and Social Idealism
 
Chapter 5 The Socialist Critique and Cultural Materialism
 
Classical Social Theories
 
Chapter 6 Patrick Geddes: Towards a Professional Sociology
 
Chapter 7 Robert MacIver: Building an Intellectual Base
 
Chapter 8 Leonard Hobhouse: Building Disciplinary Sociology
 
Development and Decay
 
Chapter 9 Social Theory After the Classics
 
Chapter 10 Rediscovering Theory and Theorists
 
Appendix: Principal Social Theorists
 
Bibliography

It is high time that widely-held myths about the historical backwardness of British sociology were exploded. Social Theory in Britain represents a fundamental challenge to the study of national traditions in social theory. Beginning with the central problem of unintended consequences in the Scottish enlightenment, John Scott, the leading authority on the history of British social theory, provides an eminently readable account of a largely forgotten and misrecognised sociological tradition, without succumbing to the charismatic blinkers of nationalist sociology. The main themes of early British sociology detected by Scott focus critically on social structure, cultural idealism, developmental processes, and economic sociology. By the twentieth century ambitious sociological syntheses were being produced by three major social theorists, Patrick Geddes, Robert MacIver and Leonard Hobhouse, which arguably stand comparison with better known social theories being produced elsewhere in Europe and the US.

Alex Law
Abertay University

British social theory has been an important influence in the past and has an important role to play in renewed thinking today - not only in Britain, but globally.

Craig Calhoun
London School of Economics

In this important book Scott provides us with a story long forgotten and therefore assumed to be non-existent: the story of British Social Theory in the 19th and early 20th Century. Skillfully drawing across a variety of writers, some seeing themselves as sociologists, others a mix of theorists from other disciplines, political actors and amateurs, Scott demonstrates the diversity of social theory in Britain. A significant contribution and a must-read for anyone interested in the history of sociology and social theory in Britain this book provides us with rich theoretical resources to revisit and disproves the claim that Britain lacked any significant social theorists in this period.

Matt Dawson
University of Glasgow

A magisterial discussion of key lines of thought in the submerged history of classical sociology in Britain pre-1950. It examines key questions concerning what social theory in British sociology was, who did it and the ideas produced and is essential reading in re-evaluating the history of British sociology. It convincingly shows any claim it was theory-bereft before US sociology came on the scene is seriously mistaken.

Liz Stanley
University of Edinburgh

John Scott has done a great service by providing this reconstruction of the long and distinguished history of British social theory, a tradition which the rest of the world reacted to and incorporated. Much of this history of social theory has been hidden in and obscured by the specialist literature on these thinkers—Scott brings them to light in an accessible form.

Stephen Turner
University of South Florida

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Was There a Failure of British Social Theory?


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