This book is a work of synthesis and argument. It arranges and critically evaluates a series of debates about the origins, meaning and value of the sociological tradition. Unlike many other studies of classical sociology devoted to the ideas of, say, Marx, Durkheim, and Weber, the present enquiry contains very little exegesis. Its concern is not to rehearse what “the classics” said, but to delineate what classics are: how they are best comprehended and how they gained their textual prominence. Nor does this book purport to offer a history of sociology. Instead, it is an investigation into some of the organizing and authoritative categories through which sociology's history continues to be understood. Two categories—founders and classics—have been particularly important in helping to frame sociology's precarious identity. They have recently been joined by a third: “canon.” Today this identity is being challenged as never before. Within the academy, a number of positions—feminist, postmodernist, post-structuralist, post-colonial—converge in questioning the status of “the tradition.” These currents in turn partly reflect wider social questioning about the meaning and uses of knowledge in technologically advanced societies.