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Rethinking the Social through Durkheim, Marx, Weber and Whitehead

Rethinking the Social through Durkheim, Marx, Weber and Whitehead

By Michael Halewood

Key Issues in Modern Sociology

This is the first book to systematically analyse the different concepts of the social developed by Durkheim, Marx and Weber, suggesting that debates surrounding this concept are still very much alive.

Hardback, 184 Pages


January 2014

£70.00, $115.00

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  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents

About This Book

Sociologists and social theorists use the term ‘social’ frequently. We talk of social relations, social media, social networks, social factors, and so on, as well as ‘the social’. But do we always know what we mean or what we are invoking when we deploy the term ‘social’?

The concept of the ‘social’ has often been treated as almost self-explanatory, inherited from the works of the instigators of sociology and social theory who, it is assumed, all meant the same thing by the term. ‘Rethinking the Social’ argues that this is not the case, and that there are major differences between their approaches. This the first book to systematically analyse the different concepts of the social developed by Durkheim, Marx and Weber. It examines how the concept of the social became unproblematic for twentieth-century writers and suggests that debates surrounding this concept remain very much alive. Building on A. N. Whitehead’s work, Halewood develops a novel ‘philosophy of the social’.


“This is a deeply insightful analysis of the notion of the social in classical sociological theory. It makes a very significant contribution to the philosophy of the social and demonstrates the continued relevance of the concept.” —Gerard Delanty, University of Sussex

“Halewood challenges and unsettles our preconceptions through a provocative, forensic examination of the conceptions of the social in the ‘founding classics’ of sociology. In the process, he skilfully opens up a surprising array of possibilities for rethinking a ‘philosophy of the social’.” —Rob Stones, University of Western Sydney

“This engagingly written book addresses a key issue in contemporary social science: how should ‘the social’ be conceptualized? Halewood carefully re-interprets key works to generate new insights into the relationship between the animal, the natural and the social.” —Stephen Kemp, University of Edinburgh

“An inventive and optimistic philology of social theory. Halewood demonstrates that social scientists do not really ‘know’ what the social is and shows why this is not actually a disadvantage when we try to understand and transform the real world.” —Karin Harrasser, Kunstuniversität Linz, Austria

Author Information

Michael Halewood is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Essex. He is the author of ‘A. N. Whitehead and Social Theory: Tracing a Culture of Thought’ (Anthem Press).


Key Issues in Modern Sociology

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; Abbreviations; 1. Rethinking the Social; 2. Durkheim Approaches the Social; 3. Durkheim’s Philosophy of the Social; 4. Marx on the Social and the Societal; 5. Weber’s “Sozial” Action; 6. The Early Death of the Problem of the Social; 7. Toward a Philosophy of the Social, Part I: Durkheim, Marx, Weber (and Simmel) Revisited; 8. Toward a Philosophy of the Social, Part II: Whitehead on Sociology, Societies and the Social; Notes; References; Index

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