Sociological Amnesia: Cross-currents in Disciplinary History, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Sociological Amnesia

Cross-currents in Disciplinary History, 1st Edition

Edited by Alex Law, Eric Royal Lybeck


228 pages

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pub: 2015-06-28
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The history of sociology overwhelmingly focuses on 'the winners' from the classical 'canon' - Marx, Durkheim, and Weber - to today's most celebrated sociologists. This book strikingly demonstrates that restricting sociology in this way impoverishes it as a form of historically reflexive knowledge and obscures the processes and struggles of sociology's own making as a form of disciplinary knowledge. Sociological Amnesia focuses on singular contributions to sociology that were once considered central to the discipline but are today largely neglected. Chapters explore the work of illustrious predecessors such as Raymond Aron, Erich Fromm and G.D.H. Cole as well as examining exceptional cases of reputational revival as in the case of Norbert Elias or Gabriel Tarde. Through understanding the obstacles of recognition faced by female sociologists like Viola Klein and Olive Schreiner, and public intellectuals like Cornelius Castoriadis, the volume considers the reasons why certain kinds of sociology are hailed as central to the discipline, whilst others are forgotten. In so doing, the collection offers fresh insights into not only the work of individual sociologists, but also into the discipline of sociology itself - its trajectories, forgotten promises, and dead ends.


"Mark Twain said that a classic is something that everybody wants to have read but nobody actually wants to read. Sociological Amnesia shows that many of the forgotten sociological classics are books one would certainly want to read eagerly. Recovering a diverse array of compelling authors from posterity's shadows, this book opens up vibrant new vistas for future sociological thinking."— David Inglis, University of Exeter, UK

"This book is a treasure trove of lost jewels. An international team of contributors present a range of social theorists - men and women from three continents - whose work has been forgotten or neglected but retains its power and relevance. The book deserves a place on every sociologist's bookshelf."—John Scott, University of Copenhagen, Denmark and University of Exeter, UK

"In the history of sociology we know more about the top 1% than the rest. The authors of this collection argue for upgrading at least twelve sociologists by offering explanations and complaints for their unjustified neglect. Readers of Law's and Lybeck's Sociological Amnesia are provided with insightful, detailed and combative pleas and detached analysis of interesting cases."— Christian Fleck, University of Graz, Austria, author of A Transatlantic History of the Social Sciences

"The editors, Professor Alex Law, of Abertay University, and Eric Royal Lybeck, University of Exeter, bring together various authors to write chapters on a dozen significant thinkers we now rarely read. In tackling the current obscurity, at least within sociology, of Raymond Aron, Robert Bellah, Erich Fromm, Viola Klein, Gabriel Tarde, Alasdair MacIntyre and others, the book offers some thoughts on why eminent writers fall out of fashion – whether this is caused by some inherent property of their work or is largely by chance. The book points out the cost of ignoring historical figures…"— BSA Network Magazine

"C’est un ouvrage très intéressant pour les historiens de la sociologie qui souhaitent (re)découvrir de nou-velles figures intellectuelles, pour ceux qui cherchent de nou-veaux terrains d’enquête ainsi que pour les épistémologues de notre discipline." Bulletin d’histoire de la sociologie

"Law and Lybeck’s excellent study of the "sociological amnesia" that leaves once prominent and influential thinkers on the sidelines of our disciplinary memory addresses precisely these larger issues while offering us a number of first-rate case studies of sociologists and intellectuals we can usefully reconsider." Canadian Journal of Sociology

Table of Contents

Sociological Amnesia: An Introduction

Alex Law and Eric Royal Lybeck

1. British Sociology and Raymond Aron

Peter Baehr

2. Two Men, Two Books, Many Disciplines: Robert N. Bellah, Clifford Geertz, and the Making of Iconic Cultural Objects

Matteo Bortolini and Andrea Cossu

3. Erich Fromm: Studies in Social Character

Kieran Durkin

4. From Literature to Sociology: The Shock of Celine’s Literary Style and Viola Klein’s Attempt to Understand it (With a Little Help from Karl Mannheim)

E. Stina Lyon

5. Olive Schreiner, Sociology and the Company she Kept

Liz Stanley

6. Lucien Goldmann's Key Sociological Problems and his Critical Heritage: From the Hidden God to the Hidden Class

Bridget Fowler

7. G.D.H. Cole: Sociology, Politics, Empowerment and ‘How to be Socially Good’

Matt Dawson and Charles Masquelier

8. Social Monads, Not Social Facts: Gabriel Tarde’s Tool for Sociological Analysis

Álvaro Santana-Acuña

9. Alasdair MacIntyre’s Lost Sociology

Neil Davidson

10. Castoriadis and Social Theory: From Marginalization to Canonization to Re-Radicalization

Christos Memos

11. Norbert Elias: Sociological Amnesia and ‘The Most Important Thinker You Have Never Heard Of’’

Stephen Mennell

About the Editors

Alex Law is Professor of Sociology at Abertay University, UK. He is the author of Social Theory for Today: Making Sense of Social Worlds, and Key Concepts in Classical Social Theory.

Eric Royal Lybeck is completing his doctoral research in the Department of Sociology at University of Cambridge, UK.

About the Series

Classical and Contemporary Social Theory

Classical and Contemporary Social Theory
Classical and Contemporary Social Theory publishes rigorous scholarly work that re-discovers the relevance of social theory for contemporary times, demonstrating the enduring importance of theory for modern social issues. The series covers social theory in a broad sense, inviting contributions on both 'classical' and modern theory, thus encompassing sociology, without being confined to a single discipline. As such, work from across the social sciences is welcome, provided that volumes address the social context of particular issues, subjects, or figures and offer new understandings of social reality and the contribution of a theorist or school to our understanding of it. The series considers significant new appraisals of established thinkers or schools, comparative works or contributions that discuss a particular social issue or phenomenon in relation to the work of specific theorists or theoretical approaches. Contributions are welcome that assess broad strands of thought within certain schools or across the work of a number of thinkers, but always with an eye toward contributing to contemporary understandings of social issues and contexts.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies