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On Society

ISBN: 978-0-7456-4841-5
208 pages
April 2012, Polity
On Society (074564841X) cover image
‘Society' is one of the most frequently used words in public life; it is also a foundational term in the social sciences. In our own time, however, the idea has never been so much in dispute and so little understood. For some critics, society is simply too consensual for a world of intensive discord. For others, the idea of ‘society' is oppressive - the very notion, so some argue, is dismissive of the infinite social differences that shape global realities.

In this erudite and original book, two of the world's leading social theorists focus on unravelling the different meanings of society as a way of introducing the reader to contemporary debates in social theory. The authors argue provocatively that all ideas of society can be assigned to one of three analytical categories, or some combination of these - structure, solidarity or creation - and develop a fresh characterization of the nature of the social as a means of understanding global transformations.

By integrating abstract problems of social theory with empirical examples and political analysis, On Society provides lucid interpretations of classical and contemporary social theory. The book also critiques recent social theories that simply equate the demise of society with globalization, the communications revolution or multiculturalism, and in so doing provides an original insight into today's world.

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Acknowledgments
Preface
Introduction
1 Society as Structure
2 Society as Solidarity
3 Society as Creation
Conclusion: From Feral to Catastrophic Societies
Notes
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Anthony Elliott is Professor of Sociology at Flinders University and Visiting Professor of Sociology at the Open University.

Bryan S. Turner is Presidential Professor of Sociology at the Graduate Center, CUNY and Professor of Social and Political Thought at the University of Western Sydney.


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  • An erudite and original book that gets to grips with a central bone of contention in the social sciences and beyond: what do we mean by ‘society’?
  • Written by two of the world’s leading social theorists.
  • In exploring what ‘society’ means, the authors engage with and elucidate an array of issues in classical and contemporary social theory.
  • Covers a range of topics such as globalization, multiculturalism, and the communications revolution, from a unique and insightful new angle.
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'The individual writings of Elliott and Turner have long been at the forward boundaries of social theory. Here they turn to an axial concept of social thought to explain why it has never quite done what it was meant to, even while it haunts the collective consciousness. Students will devour, teachers will admire, scholars will quibble, all will be amazed by the brilliant creativity packed into a small book of voluminous achievement.'
Charles C. Lemert, Yale University

'It is rare to find such a combination of lucidity and erudition. Many different readers will find much to engage them here, from first-year students to experienced academics. Tremendous.'
John Urry, Lancaster University

'We all need be thankful to Anthony Elliott and Bryan Turner, two acknowledged masters of conceptual analysis and the art of sociological theorizing, for joining forces to scrutinize the meaning of "society". One could not acquit oneself from such a challenge better than they - nor could readers of their study find more illumination, clarity, and persuasive answers to queries in any other sociological treatise.'
Zygmunt Bauman, University of Leeds

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