Thinking the Unthinkable: The Riddles of Classical Social Theories / Edition 1

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In the eloquent style for which he has become famous, Charles Lemert writes of social theory as no one else. Thinking the Unthinkable is offered as text for instruction, yet it defies the prevailing assumption that social theory is a method for clarifying the facts of social life.

Lemert shows how social theory began late in the 19th century as a struggle to come to terms with the failure of modern reason to solve the social problems created by the capitalist world-system. Since then, social theory has developed through twists and turns to think and rethink this Unthinkable. Hence the surprising innovations of recent years - postmodern, queer, postcolonial, third-wave feminist, risk theories, among others arising in the wake of globalization. Once again, Lemert has made the difficult clear in a book that students and other readers will treasure and keep.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594511868
  • Publisher: Paradigm Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/28/2007
  • Series: Great Barrington Bks.
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Lemert is Senior Fellow in the Center for Comparative Research, Yale University, and Vice-Chancellor's Professorial Fellow, University of South Australia, Adelaide. He is the author of numerous books including Uncertain Worlds, with Immanuel Wallerstein and Carlos Rojas, and Thinking the Unthinkable.

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Table of Contents


PART I: WHAT IS SOCIAL THEORY? Total Destruction, Bead Lust, and Other Unreasonable Social Things
Chapter 1: The Impossible Reasons of Modern Civilizations
Chapter 2: Social Theory and Modernity's Unthinkable
Chapter 3: Social Violence as the Bread Lust of the Unthinkable
Chapter 4: Five Ways to Skin a Cat: Modernity's Five Riddles

PART II: UNTHINKABLE SOCIAL THINGS Five Solutions to the Riddle of the Defiant Darkness, 1848-1914
Light and Dark
Chapter 5: Revolutionary Reasons: Karl Marx and the Melting of Solid Modernity
Chapter 6: Rationality's Double-Bind: Max Weber and Modernity's Threat to Human Spirit
Chapter 7: The Reasonable hope of a Social Bond: Emile Durkheim and Modern Man's Trouble with Conflict
Riddles and Realities
Chapter 8: Perverse Reasons: Sigmund Freud and the Discontents of Conscious Life
Chapter 9: Unreasonable Differences: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Logic of the Feminist Standpoint

PART III: THE EXILED OTHERS THINK THE UNTHINKABLE The Classic Solutions Encounter Differences and Possibilities
Unthinkable Variations on the Classic Riddles: W. E. B. Du Bois, Anna Julia Cooper, Georg Simmel, and Ferdinand de Saussure
Chapter 10: Beyond the Double Blind: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Gift of Second-Sight
Chapter 11: A Revolutionary Social Bond: Anna Julia Cooper and the Colored Woman's Office
Chapter 12: The Strange Social Benefits of Conflict: Georg Simmel and Modern Wandering
Chapter 13: The Social Structure of Meanings: Ferdinand de Saussure and the Arbitrary Sign
Violence, War, and the Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991
Chapter 14: The Unfolding of Social Theory in the Unraveling of the Twentieth Century into the Twenty-First

Bibliographic Essay and Other Acknowledgments
About the Author

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