‘This book is a must-read for anyone interested in exploring the role of ‘the classic’ in sociology. In terms of both breadth and depth, Alan How has done a brilliant job in providing an inclusive, undogmatic, and inspiring account of the multiple ways in which key intellectual traditions and canons have shaped, and continue to shape, paradigmatic developments in contemporary sociological analysis.’ – Simon Susen, City University, UK
‘This lively and engaging book moves from an exploration of the question of sociology's current response to its “classics” and the idea of a sociological “canon” to a broader defence of a hermeneutic approach to tradition in social thought and in modern societies.’ – William Outhwaite, Newcastle University, UK
This book examines the way sociology has eliminated the importance of the past, history, and tradition in favour of the transience of the present. The role of the classic text in sociology has produced criticism that the ideas of Weber, Marx and Durkheim are now ideologically dubious and sociologically irrelevant. Challenging this view, the author criticises such notions as de-traditionalization, structuration and postmodernism, emphasizing instead the relevance of habit, re-traditionalization, and social integration across time. Demonstrating that classical sociology continues to be highly relevant to cutting-edge debates in the contemporary social sciences, he revisits the Habermas-Gadamer debate to argue that tradition is the ground of the classic, and the classic something that must prove itself anew in subsequent situations. He uses the work of Durkheim, Simmel and Weber to illustrate this process. Drawing on Archer’s account of structure and agency, he makes a parallel distinction between ‘classic’ and ‘canon’, allowing us to appreciate the separate qualities of each. This major contribution to the field is essential reading for scholars and students of sociology and social theory.
Alan R. How is Senior Lecturer at the University of Worcester, UK.