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of surprising patterns of network relations with

consequences for the organization of collective

life. Network analysis has served as a tool for

theories of many kinds, including Tilly’s in Durable

Inequality (1999). One theorist, Manuel Castells,

has gone so far as to make networks the primary

units of the analysis of modernity in his recent

trilogy, The Information Age (1996–8).

A concentration on the relationship between

the properties of collectivities and the enactment

of social practices, commonly called the problem

of agency and structure, has emerged since the

mid-1970s as a highly original way to make sense

of the realities of social life. Anticipated in certain

respects in the pragmatic philosophies of John

Dewey (1859–1952) and Mead, this new mode of

theorizing has been advanced by Pierre Bourdieu,

Margaret Archer, and Randall Collins, and the association

between collective structures and social

practices has been a central theme in Habermas’s

analysis of the relationship between systems and

lifeworlds, and Tilly’s theory of the persistence of

inequalities in the scripts of everyday life.

Anthony Giddens’s structuration theory is the

most prominent account of this new sociological

point of view. For Giddens, collectivities are associated

with social practices in two ways. First,

social practices are connected in networks, systems,

and other circuits of reproduction that

maintain the morphological properties of collective

groups. Second, common social practices,

many of which are reproduced in a large collectivity

millions of times each day, are structured by

pragmatic skills that actors have acquired in the

past. When these practices are reproduced anew,

they reestablish familiar forms of structuration

and thus help to perpetuate the structures received

from the past. Thus, when people coordinate

their activities via standard clock time, they

help to reproduce the chronological structuration

of modern social life.

Two things are obvious about contemporary

sociological theory today. First, whereas theory

fifty years ago centered on formal scientific ambitions

and functionalist models, social theory today

has no obvious center of gravity at all. Some sociologists

long for more theoretical coherence.

Others glory in the intellectual freedom that is a

concomitant of this diversity. Yet one thing has

not changed: every sociological theory is still motivated

by the need to make sense of social life,

the most complex, diverse, and mutable of all

empirical domains. IRA COHEN


Both an academic field and a practical accomplishment,

it may be understood as the competence

by which ordinary participants in social

settings recognize and obey (or violate) rules and

norms that are widely shared by others. The performance

of sociological competence leads to

the practical accomplishment of the salient and

enduring social structures that organize social

life into institutions. How practical sociological

competence is acquired remains a mystery,

though it seems to operate in much the same

way as language acquisition in that the ability to

respond to social settings in a normal (or deviant)

manner arises suddenly at a relatively young age

in early childhood. Even preverbal infants know

how to please (or irritate) care-givers in practically

competent ways. Practical sociological competence

is not necessarily discursive in that participants

may or may not be able to discuss or

explain the reasons they behave as they do. This

is sometimes called the naive, natural attitude of

everyday life.

Academic sociologies can be distinguished

from practical ones by the trained ability to describe

the discursive properties of regularities in

the competent achievements of social groups.

The child as a practical sociologist cannot say

how she gets a care-giver to change a diaper. An

academic sociologist, however, uses a disciplinary

language to account for how regularities in a

society’s family structure may affect the interactions

of children and their care-givers. From its

beginnings in the 1890s, academic sociology has

developed along two lines. Explanatory sociologies

seek to follow the lead of pure sciences by offering

discursive explanations in formal, preferably

mathematical, languages. Interpretative sociologies,

by contrast, believe that, unlike events in

the natural world, social things cannot be reduced

to their formal properties because social performances

seldom conform exactly to competency

rules. Thus, while explanatory sociologies take

the analytic risk of making their discursive

sociological theory sociology


statements too precise and overly general, interpretative

sociologies risk giving up the advantages

of formal analysis in order to investigate the natural

irregularities in practical aspects of social

behavior. The two methods, never fully comfortable

with each other, have enriched the field by

reminding sociologists that a science of social

facts depends on the practical sociologies of untrained

persons in natural settings (called by some

“ethnomethods” – for example Harold Garfinkel,

Studies in Ethnomethodology, 1967).

Academic sociology began in earnest in the

1890s when the early industrial era made it difficult

to neglect the practical consequences of

urban conflict, political instability, and rapid

economic change. The earliest academic sociologists

did not choose sides between explanatory

and interpretative methods; for example,

mile Durkheim’s Suicide (1897 [trans. 1951]) was

a formal explanatory study of the practical consequences

of anomie, as Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic

and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905 [trans. 2002]) was

an interpretative explanation of the practical

consequences of formalization in society. Also in

the classical period, American sociology pursued

empirical work that used formal methods to

study the practical accomplishments of marginal

social groups; such as W. E. B. Du Bois, The Philadelphia

Negro (1896), and W. I. Thomas and Florian

Znaniecki, The Polish Peasant in Europe and America


Scientific sociology did not begin to mature

until the 1940s in the United States. The key

texts at the beginning of the scientific era were

Talcott Parsons’s Structure of Social Action (1937),

which emphasized the independence of formal

analytic concepts, and Robert K. Merton’s Social

Theory and Social Structure (1949), which insisted

on embedding of concepts in empirical research

findings. Yet, the differences notwithstanding,

the two approaches inspired empirically formal

research that came to dominate the field.

In the 1960s and 1970s, academic sociology,

responding to the political turmoil of the times,

began to restore the balance between formal explanatory

and practically interpretative sociologies.

After World War II, the United States had

been the global hegemonic power in cultural and

economic matters. But, after 1968, the new social

movements in the global core and semi-periphery

and the resistance of newly decolonized peripheral

regions challenged the United States’

cultural authority in sociology as in most areas.

In the 1970s, European sociology reasserted its

independence from America’s narrowly scientific

sociology. In Germany, critical sociology was defined

as a third sociological way beyond the limitations

of formal and interpretative methods; for

example, Ju¨rgen Habermas, Knowledge and Human

Interests (1968 [trans. 1971]). In France, Pierre

Bourdieu challenged the very idea that objectivist

formal methods were opposed to subjectivist interpretative

ones, as in Outline of a Theory of Practice

(1972 [trans. 1977]). Some time later, in Great

Britain, Anthony Giddens also defied the pure

science ideal in sociology in an unmistakably

European way, for example, in New Rules of Sociological

Method (1976). Though these developments

differed in important ways, they sought to rethink

sociology as the study of the consequences of

ordinary social practices.

Meanwhile, in the United States, a native pragmatism

reasserted itself by emphasizing the

study of the natural attitudes of people in everyday

life; for example Erving Goffman in Presentation

of Self in Everyday Life (1959) and C. Wright Mills

in The Sociological Imagination (1959). Slightly later,

the easing of Cold War tensions encouraged an

appropriation of structural, including Marxist,

ideas that supported a more global perspective.

Immanuel Wallerstein’s The Modern World-System

(vol. I, 1974) is the prime example of a critical

sociology of global structures that is formal without

being empiricist and interpretative without

being local. Also in the 1970s, feminist sociology

and other sociologies associated with the new

social movements defied the prevailing scientific

norms in the United States, for example in Dorothy

Smith’s “Women’s Experience as a Radical

Critique of Sociology” in The Conceptual Practices of

Power (1974) and Nancy Chodorow’s Reproduction

of Mothering (1978). In the 1970s historical sociologies

such as world-systems analysis and feminist

sociologies significantly broadened academic

sociology’s ability to account for global and personal

issues of practical social life by encouraging

a new wave of research into racial and sexual

identities, economic change, and globalization.

Over the last decades of the twentieth century,

sociologies with balanced commitments to explanatory

and interpretative methods began to

surface, notably in modernizing regions like

East Asia, for example in Young Hee Shim, Sexual

Violence and Feminism in Korea (2004). Early in

the twenty-first century, academic sociology had

achieved a scientific maturity that did not require

the sacrifice of its natural reliance on practical

sociologies: for example Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid

Modernity (2001), and Ulrich Beck, World Risk Society


sociology sociology



This term was coined by Jacob L. Moreno (1889–

1974) and is true to its Latin roots which mean

“social” and “measure.” For Moreno, the social was

the relatedness between the members of any

social group or organization, and the measurement

was to be based on the perception by the

members of that group of their relations to others

from their own individual perspectives. The result

was to be the mathematical study of the psychological

properties of populations.

At the time of its coinage in the early 1930s,

Moreno was one of a number of writers who had

an interest in the use of spatial metaphors to

describe society. In his and their view, society

was best analyzed through the sets of personal

relationships in which they were involved, and

which in turn underpinned the larger social

structures with which other writers were concerned.

Various sociometric techniques were developed

in the light of this view, which enabled

the creation of what are called sociograms. These

offer a visual representation of the degree of connectedness

between members of a group, and of

the extent of social distance between them.

At the practical level, sociometric techniques

were designed to support a variety of therapeutic

and managerial interventions into groups, organizations,

and communities, reflecting Moreno’s

own background in psychiatry and psychotherapy,

particularly sociodrama, of which he was

a key exponent and important innovator. It is

in these areas that these techniques see continuing

use today. Their validity is viewed as being

due to their phenomenological grounding, which

renders the outcome of their application meaningful

to the members of the group from which

they are derived.

At the theoretical level, sociometry was adopted

within a variety of disciplines in the 1930s, and

was, in part, the offspring of the very fruitful

mixing of North American and European intellectual

traditions which resulted from the waves

of immigration from European universities at

that time. The abiding focus was interpersonal

relationships, the flow of information between

persons, its affective significance, and the consequences

that followed. A line of thinking that is

pursued currently is the study of social distance.

Moreno and others founded the journal Sociometry

to take their work forward, but not in any

narrow sense. The editorial foreword to the first

issue in 1937 is remarkably, and perhaps depressingly,

prescient in its recognition that many of

the challenges that face the study of human societies

can only be approached by an interdisciplinarity

that rises above “a glib scrambling

of fashionable texts from biology, psychiatry and

ethnology.” In the 1960s, the journal was briefly

transformed into the journal Social Psychology

before that too was absorbed into another

publication. DAVID GOOD


Whereas economic accounts of collective phenomena

typically operate in terms of individuallevel

capacities or inclinations, sociological

accounts function in terms of factors not reducible

to individual qualities. Whereas economic

accounts of markets, for instance, refer to

self-interested exchanges between individuals,

sociological accounts may operate at the level of

societal organization, such as capitalism, or institutional

arrangement, such as property rights or

consumer legislation. Social or group solidarity

in sociological explanation is the factor that gives

reality to collective entities that are more than

the mere aggregation of individuals who make

up or populate them. E´mile Durkheim, with

whom the notion of solidarity is originally associated,

famously insisted that solidarity is “[not]

amenable to exact observation and especially not

to measurement” in The Division of Labor in Society

(1893 [trans. 1960]). It can be known only by its


As the basis of group formation and cohesiveness,

solidarity is responsible for the sense of belongingness

that individuals experience in social

life, and for the direction of their conduct towards

mutuality or interconnectedness that characterizes

social behavior and interaction. For the

concept of solidarity to be meaningful, it must

be distinguished from others that might have the

same consequences for group cohesiveness. Solidarity

cannot be reduced to coercion, for example.

Durkheim holds that solidarity implies collective

norms through which group members are obliged

but not forced to participate in group activities.

Neither is the social obligation inherent in solidarity

to be confused with expediency, through

which an individual will submit to group-defined

requirements in exchange for a benefit that compensates

for that submission. Rather, the individual’s

obligation to the group is a consequence

of their acceptance of the group’s entitlement to

demand their commitment. Durkheim agrees that

the level or intensity of solidarity varies between

types of groups.

sociometry solidarity


Solidarity, as a basis of social order, has been

sociologically explained in a number of different

ways. One indicator of the nature of the prevalent

solidarity identified by Durkheim, for instance,

is law, in which different types of law, repressive

or restitutive, determine different types of solidarity

(The Division of Labor, ch. 1, section 3). Few

sociologists have followed Durkheim, however, in

a legal approach to solidarity. Many who focus

on culture as the foundation of solidarity nevertheless

see norms, also emphasized by Durkheim,

as its source. Talcott Parsons, for instance, in

The Social System (1951) holds that solidarity (which

he also calls loyalty) has two aspects; attachment

and symbols (involving both meaning and

value-orientation). An alternative to the cultural

perspective on solidarity is the structuralist perspective,

with Karl Marx as its chief exponent.

Marx accounted for class solidarity, for instance,

in terms of consciousness, and the absence of

societal solidarity under capitalist conditions in

terms of divergent economic interests and social

organization between social classes. Conflict

theory, for example Georg Simmel, Conflict and

the Web of Group-Affiliations (1955) offers another

possibility of solidarity, as arising not primarily

from culture or structure internal to the group,

but from external pressure caused by conflict with

another group. JACK BARBALET

Sombart, Werner (1863–1941)

An economist and sociologist, Sombart edited

one of the main journals of social science in Germany,

namely the Archiv fur Sozialwissenschaft und

Sozialpolitik with Max Weber and Edgar Jaffe. He

wrote extensively on the nature of modern capitalism

in the six-volume history of the European

capitalist economy Der Moderne Kapitalismus (1902).

Sombart is best known for his dispute with Weber

over “the spirit” of capitalism, in which Sombart

in The Jews and Modern Capitalism (1911 [trans.

1951]) emphasized the role of Jewish entrepreneurs

against Weber’s emphasis on Calvinism.

Further aspects of his analysis of entrepreneurship

and the nature of capitalist production

appeared in The Quintessence of Capitalism (1913

[trans. 1967]) and Luxury and Capitalism (1913

[trans. 1967]). Sombart also departed from Weber’s

liberalism in talking a nostalgic and romantic

view of the importance of the family, community,

and the folk in German history in his account of

the “communal economy” in Die deutsche Volkwirtschaft

im neunzehnten Jahrhundert (1905). Sombart

defended socialism and the economic

theories of Karl Marx in his account of socialism

and social movements in his Sozialismus und soziale

Bewegung in 19. Jahrhundert (1896), but he came to

embrace fascism in his later career. He also contributed

to the debate about the political history

of the United States in Why is There No Socialism in

the United States? (1906 [trans. 1976]). Sombart also

favored, against Weber’s political views, a traditional

and patriarchal approach to social policy.

In 1915 Sombart published the influential and

controversial pamphlet on Handler und Helden:

Patriotische Besinnungen in which he compared the

trader’s spirit of English utilitarianism with the

heroic ethos of German culture. This image was

an early version of two stereotypes in which, while

the British spirit was represented by an “island

of shop-keepers,” the civilization of Germany

was forged by heroic warriors. Because Sombart

saw European history as a movement from feudalism

to capitalism or from Christian community

to Jewish association, his work is often criticized

as anti-Semitic and as an example of “reactionary

modernism.” BRYAN S. TURNER

Sorokin, Pitirim (1889–1968)

Born in the north of Russia, the son of an itinerant

icon-maker – appropriate for an iconoclast –

Sorokin was involved in revolutionary activities

and arrested while a school pupil and again

while at university in St. Petersburg, where he

also became acquainted with sociology. He was

Chair of the Sociology Department between 1919

and 1922, despite having been under threat of

execution from the Bolsheviks in 1917. He went

into exile in 1922, arriving in the United States

in 1924, holding a number of posts before being

invited to Harvard in 1930, where he became

founding Chair of the new Department of Sociology

(to be replaced in 1946 by Talcott Parsons,

with whom he had a bitter feud).

Sorokin wrote prolifically, making a major contribution

to sociological theory. His Systematic

Sociology (1922) was published clandestinely in

Russia, and was followed by a highly influential

critical survey, Contemporary Sociological Theories

(1928). His book Social Mobility (1927) was the first

systematic study of the topic (see social mobility).

With his colleague Carl Zimmerman, he wrote

Principles of Rural–Urban Sociology (1929). His fourvolume

Social and Cultural Dynamics (1937–41) was

his magnum opus. Famously combative, he was

stinging in his attacks upon his sociological

colleagues and his reputation suffered from it,

though he was elected President of the American

Sociological Association in 1965. With support

from a drug company, he set up a Research Center

Sombart, Werner (1863–1941) Sorokin, Pitirim (1889–1968)


in Creative Altruism at Harvard and wrote many

more books, mainly concerned with social prophecy,

that had little impact in sociology. He

returned to his earlier sociological interests with

another dismissive attack on his contemporaries

in Fads and Foibles in Modern Sociology (1956).



The question of space is among the most perplexing

questions in sociology. It is true that sociology

studies objects in space, but should or could

space as such be an object of sociological analysis?

What would space as such mean? If it means

anything at all, does not human geography deal

with it? So perhaps sociology abstracts from

space and geography studies space. But these assumptions

of a fundamental division of labor

between sociology and geography have been

effectively repudiated. Whatever the specific cultural

and social history of organization of disciplines,

whether social objects can be studied

within neatly delineated disciplinary boundaries,

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