Drawing on the work of Gadamer, the book demonstrates that a sociology which focuses on social relations does not imply a return to idealism, nor a retreat into individualism, nor a rejection of critique. Rather, a hermeneutic sociology which prioritises human social relations is the only coherent paradigm which is available today. The author argues that sociologists studying the dramatic social transformations which are currently occuring should focus on social relations between humans; they should not attempt to understand contemporary changes in terms of structure and agency.
Part I: Contemporary Social Theory 1. Structure and Agency 2. The Relevance of Parsons 3. Structure, Habitus, Discourse 4. The Reality of Realism Part II: Classical Sociology 5. Hegel and the Concept of Geist 6. From Praxis to Historical Materialism 7. Status Groups and the Protestant Ethic 8. Society and Ritual Part III: Towards a Hermeneutic Sociology 9. Hermeneutics and Idealism 10. Hermeneutics and Individualism 11. Hermeneutics and Critique 12. Beyond Structure and Agency