OK on ideology? Better look it up

Key Concepts in Critical Social Theory. First Edition
February 24, 2006

This is the fourth textbook in a new series on key concepts in a variety of disciplines. Like the others, it is designed as an extended dictionary that consists of short cross-referenced entries arranged in alphabetical order on key concepts. In each case, a full definition is offered, generally with respect to the relevant literature, and a guide to further reading follows.

This volume contains 58 entries on key concepts in classical and contemporary critical social theory, each being about four or five pages long and sufficiently detailed to be useful to the student reader seeking a precise definition of "citizenship", "hybridity" or "ideology"

and so on. Given its format, the book has no connecting argument; the aim is to assist students in reading contemporary social theory.

Nick Crossley successfully provides succinct definitions of what are often opaque terms or concepts that are generally difficult to separate from the work of a particular theorist. There are some excellent entries, for instance on social capital and social space. The book may help to make "theory" (primary texts such as classic works by Cornelius Castoriadis, Theodor Adorno or Jurgen Habermas) easier to teach, though Crossley notes inhis preface that the book is no substitute for reading primary texts.

It is difficult to fault the range of topics included, although another author might have included fewer topics that concern subjectivity and more on major issues of a societal nature, such as modernity and social change, or ones more closely linked to political thought, such as cosmopolitanism.

But thisbias partly reflects the book's subject matter, namely the somewhat undefined territory of critical social theory - the title word "critical"

suggesting a specific kind of social theory. It is, in brief, a sociologically inclined kind of critical theory.

Gerard Delanty is professor of sociology, Liverpool University.

Key Concepts in Critical Social Theory. First Edition

Author - Nick Crossley
Publisher - Sage
Pages - 342
Price - £65.00 and £19.99
ISBN - 0 7619 7059 2 and 7060 6

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