B. Turner (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to Social Theory, Oxford: Blackwell, 2000, 2nd edn, xx+566 pp. (ISBN 0-631-21366-X)
B. Turner, Classical Sociology, London: Sage, 1999, xi+291 pp. (ISBN 0-7619-6458-4)
A. Swingewood, A Short History of Sociological Thought, Basingstoke and London: Macmillan, 2000, 3rd edn, xi+269 pp. (ISBN 0-333-80199-7)
L. Ray, Theorizing Classical Sociology, Buckingham: Open University Press, 1999, ix+218 pp.
The editor of the newly revised Companion to Social Theory describes his volume as an ‘attempt to offer the student a prescriptive and critical, rather than bland and neutral, pathway through the literature’ (Turner 2000:xiv). The rest of the introduction certainly lives up to this promise. In a bold, incisive and sharply worded defence of sociology as a distinct mode of conceptualisation, with a unique object of enquiry – the social – Bryan Turner makes a passionate plea for social theory to engage with the central political issues of our times. Yet as I turned the pages of this skilfully edited, beautifully presented and lavishly referenced collection I grew increasingly uneasy. Then, in the opening of Terry Lovell's chapter on ‘Feminisms of the Second Wave’, I found my disquiet pointedly expressed. She recognises a further aspect of the role of a sociology text for students, the full appreciation of which is missing from several of the volumes under review.