Unrivalled in scope and depth, and prepared by one of the acknowledged giants of contemporary social theory, this boxed set provides a magisterial review of the central canons, discourses and research programmes in social theory. The reader is provided with a route-map through the complex terrain of social theory from classical to contemporary times. Alexander distils an amazingly rich set of resources into eight exceptional volumes. For the specialist who does not have all of these materials to hand, the set offers an incisive and invaluable research aid. For the non-specialist, the volumes constitute an elegant and reliable entry into the heart of what is important in social theory. For specialist and non-specialist alike, Alexander's choices will be a fascinating insight into his view of the essentials in the Western tradition of social theory.
The collection begins with a specially prepared essay by Alexander which precludes a view of social theory as a `glorious' onward march. Instead, he concentrates on the relativity of social theory, a relativity that derives from the status of sociology as a human science rather than a science of nature. The Introduction provides the reader with a guide through the main structural shifts in social theory. It demonstrates why the classics are significant and elucidates their contemporary relevance; and indicates the limitations of the classical tradition, tracing where these limitations have borne fruit in contemporary research initiatives and achievements. Alexander identifies central canons in sociological research and lays the groundwork for framing each. Urbane, shrewd and compelling, Alexander's mapping of the canons will inspire debate in sociology and offers an exciting new reorientation for reading and understanding social theory.