lectures were given in November 2001 in the Department of Social Anthropology,
University of Cambridge. They were part of a course on theory and
methods in anthropology designed for second year social anthropology
undergraduates. They were filmed by Xiaoxiao Yan.
of this course is to look at the foundations of modern social theory
through an examination of social thought in its political, economic
and ideological context since about 1700 A.D. Each lecture deals with
a major theoretical paradigm and is illustrated by a case study of
the life, methods and conclusions of one major thinker.
are the eight lectures of the course and an extra lecture on F.W.Maitland
from a parallel course on property and corporations.
relevant texts can be read as e-books courtesy of University
of Virginia Library, Electronic Text Center
selection of e-books can be found at:
1. A rough map of social theory: 1000-2000 A.D. [Select online
works of some social
2. Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755) [Read online 'The
Spirit of the Laws']
3. Adam Smith (1723-1790) [Read online 'An
Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations']
4. Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) [Read online 'Democracy in
America' volumes 1
5. Karl Marx (1818-1883) [Read online 'Capital']
6. Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)
7. Max Weber (1864-1920)
8. Ernest Gellner (1925-1995)
Lecture. F.W.Maitland (1850-1906)
and general reading
Aron, Main Currents in Sociological Thought (2 vols: 1965).
E.E. Evans-Pritchard, A History of Anthropological Theory (1981)
Anthony Giddens, Capitalism and modern social theory (1971)
Clifford Geertz, Works and Lives (1988)
Jack Goody, The Expansive Moment, (1995), appendix 2.
Geoffrey Hawthorn, Enlightenment and Despair: A history of Sociology
Robert Lowie, History of Ethnological Theory (1937)
Alan Macfarlane, The Riddle of the Modern World: Of Liberty, Wealth
and Equality (2000)
R.A.Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition (1967)
G.Stocking, Victorian Anthropology (1987)
Fred Voget, A History of Ethnology (1975)
books will be referred to below in detailed reading lists by short
titles, eg. Aron, Currents or Hawthorn, Enlightenment]
are useful articles on numerous theoretical topics (e.g. social structure)
and individual thinkers (e.g. Montesquieu) in both the first and second
edition of Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, a multi-volume work.
It is often worth starting with an overview from an article in this
source. There are also helpful overview articles in The Macmillan
Student's Guide to Sociology, ed. Michael Mann (1983).
see my own writing on Encounters
with Social Theorists