The Art of Social Theory

The Art of Social Theory

by Richard Swedberg


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In the social sciences today, students are taught theory by reading and analyzing the works of Karl Marx, Max Weber, and other foundational figures of the discipline. What they rarely learn, however, is how to actually theorize. The Art of Social Theory is a practical guide to doing just that.

In this one-of-a-kind user's manual for social theorists, Richard Swedberg explains how theorizing occurs in what he calls the context of discovery, a process in which the researcher gathers preliminary data and thinks creatively about it using tools such as metaphor, analogy, and typology. He guides readers through each step of the theorist’s art, from observation and naming to concept formation and explanation. To theorize well, you also need a sound knowledge of existing social theory. Swedberg introduces readers to the most important theories and concepts, and discusses how to go about mastering them. If you can think, you can also learn to theorize. This book shows you how.

Concise and accessible, The Art of Social Theory features helpful examples throughout, and also provides practical exercises that enable readers to learn through doing.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691168135
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 09/01/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Richard Swedberg is professor of sociology at Cornell University. His books include Tocqueville's Political Economy, Principles of Economic Sociology, and Max Weber and the Idea of Economic Sociology (all Princeton).

Table of Contents

Introduction: Why Theorize and Can You Learn to Do It? 1

Part 1: How to Theorize

Chapter 1. Starting Anew 13

Chapter 2. Social Observation 29

Chapter 3. Naming, Concept, and Typology 52

Chapter 4. Analogy, Metaphor, and Pattern 80

Chapter 5. Coming Up with an Explanation 98

Part 2: Preparing for Theorizing

Chapter 6. Heuristics 127

Chapter 7. Practical Exercises 146

Chapter 8. The Role of Theory 169

Chapter 9. Imagination and Art 188

Chapter 10. Summary and More 210

Appendix: How to Theorize according to Charles S. Peirce 230

Acknowledgments 249

Notes 251

References 253

Index 279

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