Introduction: The history of sociological theory
Yes, this is another book about sociological theory. And no, this is not the only book about sociological theory that you will need if you want to fully understand the history of and complex debates within that fi eld of inquiry. It is intended to be a fi rst step along the journey to achieving that understanding, nothing more. There are plenty of good books out there which cover sociological theory and go into considerable detail about the many perspectives contained within our discipline of sociology. But one problem I have consistently encountered in all the years I have been teaching theory classes to sociology students is that however good and well written such a book is, it falls on deaf ears if it presumes too much background knowledge. A chapter on functionalism may contain the most elaborate explanation of Talcott Parsons’s famous AGIL scheme but this is pointless if the reader is not yet equipped to understand what functionalism even is. A chapter on Marxism may contain a fantastic introduction to Karl Marx’s surplus theory of value but such knowledge is lost on a reader who is not yet clear on what a Marxist approach actually involves. And so on, and so forth . . .