Masters of Sociological Thought: Ideas in Historical and Social Context by Lewis A. Coser
611 pages, $62.95 list
Masters of Sociological Thought
Ideas in Historical and Social Context
Second Edition
For today’s students to understand the history of sociological theories, more is required than a knowledge of formal propositions and theoretical structures. In this impressive and enduring text, Coser elucidates his examination of the ideas of fifteen influential sociological thinkers with a discussion of the social and intellectual circumstances that surrounded them. Each of the first fourteen chapters follows a parallel organization. The first section is a capsule summary of the scholar’s work—his main orientations, ideas, and contributions. Next is a short sketch of his life—his struggles and successes; the influences of his family, peers, and superiors; and his involvement in community affairs. The third section locates him and his work in the texture of a particular moment in intellectual history. The concluding section addresses sociological questions such as: What were the social origins of the theorist? Did crucial events (e.g., war, depression, revolution) help fashion his orientations in ways similar to those of others in his generation? The final chapter presents a less-detailed discussion of major American theorists whose theories emerged between the 1940s and 1960s.
“Coser’s Masters is a theory book that is the very best of its kind. Nobody does theory so well, especially for undergraduates. A diamond of the first order.” — Alexandra Maryanski, University of California, Riverside

“I congratulate you on putting this out in paperback. It is a mainstay for most social theorists I know. We all recommend it to our students and now, in a paper edition and a more reasonable price, I will encourage them to purchase it. It is, and always has been, one of the finest statements on classical theory ever.” — Glenn A. Goodwin, University of LaVerne

“A useful overview of some of the most important sociological thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is a text that helped inspire me to become a sociologist.” — Pete Taylor, Colorado State University

“Coser’s masterpiece is an absolute must read for all undergraduate and graduate sociology students!” — Stan Weeber, McNeese State University

“The best single text for teaching the history of sociological thought. I am delighted that Waveland has reprinted it.” — Robert Graber, Truman State University

“Coser’s book still sets the standard for all sociology theory texts. No other text combines depth of understanding with conceptual clarity and accessibility in the same manner as Coser.” — Martin E. Hansen, St. Ambrose University

“Coser was a master theorist himself, and his ability to clearly lay out the core and meaning of theories is unrivaled. In my own courses on theory, I emphasize the importance of understanding the biographical, cultural, and social contexts within which thinkers developed their ideas. Coser does this better than any other author I know. Moreover, the inclusion of often overlooked, but important thinkers, such as Veblen and Mannheim, make this text an unusual and valuable one.” — C. Hurst, College of Wooster
Table of Contents
Foreword (Robert K. Merton)


Methods of Inquiry / The Law of Human Progress / Hierarchy of the Sciences / Social Statics and Dynamics / The Normative Doctrine / The Alliance with Saint-Simon / The Tradition of Progress / The Tradition of Order / The Tradition of Liberalism / The Influence of Saint-Simon / The Effects of Intellectual Competition: A Note on Comte and Quetelet / The General Scene / Comte’s Generation-Le Mal du Siècle / The Promise of Science / Comte Without Colleagues / The Search for an Audience

KARL MARX 1818–1883

The Overall Doctrine / Class Theory / Alienation / The Sociology of Knowledge / Dynamics of Social Change / Marx Becomes a Young Hegelian / Parisian Days: Marx Becomes a Socialist / The End of Apprenticeship / The Founding of the First International / The Idea of Progress / The Idea of Alienation / The Idea of Perfectibility / The Idea of Totality / Marx’s Debt to His Contemporaries / The General Scene / Marx’s Parental Background and Early Companions / The Working-Class Audience / Isolation and Double Marginality


Growth, Structure, and Differentiation / Social Types: Militant and Industrial Societies / Evolution-Unilinear or Multilinear / Functionalism / Individualism Versus Organicism / Nonintervention and the Survival of the Fittest / Obstacles to Objectivity / The London Years / The Successful Author / Antecedents / Influence of Contemporaries / The General Scene / Background / Friends and Associates / The Social Setting / Audience and Demand


General Approach / Individual and Society / The Sociology of Religion / The Sociology of Knowledge / Functional Explanation / Durkheim’s Academic Career / Public Involvement / Durkheim’s Roots in French Intellectual History / Contemporary Influences / Extra-French Influences / The General Scene / Durkheim’s Background / Gathering Disciples and Finding an Audience / Patterns of Influence

GEORG SIMMEL 1858–1918

Formal Sociology / Social Types / The Dialectical Method in Simmel’s Sociology / The Significance of Numbers for Social Life / Simmel’s Ambivalent View of Modern Culture / A Note on the Philosophy of Money / The Academic Outsider / A Virtuoso on the Platform / Simmel’s Writing Career / In the Footsteps of Darwin and Spencer / The Kantian Influence / The Final Phase: Vitalistic Philosophy / The General Scene / Simmel’s Twin Audiences

MAX WEBER 1864–1920

Natural Science, Social Science, and Value Relevance / The Ideal Type / Causality and Probability / Types of Authority / The Function of Ideas / Class, Status, and Power / Bureaucracy / Rationalization and Disenchantment / In the Father’s House / The Early Academic Career / The Years of Mastery / An Exemplary Moralist / Weber and the Inheritance of Idealism / Weber and German Historicism and Sociology / Two Crucial Influences: Nietzsche and Marx / The Family Network / The Public Scene / The Academic Man


The General Approach / The Anatomy of Competition / Sociology of Knowledge / Functional Analysis / The Theory of Social Change / A Marginal Norwegian / A Marginal Student / A Marginal Academic / A Marginal Free Lance / The Influence of Bellamy, Marx, and Evolutionism / The Debt to Pragmatism / The General Scene / A Marginal Man / Veblen’s Audience and Colleagues


The Looking-Glass Self / The Organic View of Society / The Primary Group / Sociological Method / Social Process / Institutional Analysis / The Sage of Ann Arbor / Debt to Baldwin and James / Cooley’s Academic Setting and Audience / Cooley’s Heritage


The Self in Society / The Genesis of the Self / The “I” and the “Me” / Mead as a Pathsetter / Mead at Chicago / The Heritage of Protestantism and the Frontier / Evolutionism / German Idealism / The Fellowship of Pragmatists / Mead’s Audience and Colleagues


Collective Behavior and Social Control / Four Major Social Processes / Social Distance / Social Change / The Biotic Order and the Social Order / The Self and the Social Role / Park—A Newspaperman and Student of Philosophy / Park—An Activist / Park’s Academic Career / Park’s Debt to German Social Science / Park’s Debt to Evolutionism and to Continental Social Psychology / Chicago Sociology at the Beginning of the Century / University Career


Logical and Nonlogical Action / Residues and Derivations / Two Types of Nonlogical Theories / Subjective Intentions and Objective Consequences / The Lions and the Foxes / The Theory of Elites and the Circulation of Elites / Social Utility “of” and “for” Collectives / Summary and Assessment / Pareto as Businessman and Spurned Politician / A Belated Academic Career / The Heir of Machiavelli / The Influence of Evolutionism and Positivism / Pareto’s Debt to Mosca and Marx / The General Scene / Pareto’s Colleagues and Audience / Pareto’s Influence in America


The Sociology of Knowledge / The Sociology of Planned Reconstruction / The Intellectual Milieu of Budapest / The English Years / Marxism and Historicism / Gestalt Psychology, Neo-Kantianism, and Phenomenology / The Debt to Hegel / The Turn Toward Pragmatism / The Hungarian Background / German Society in the Twenties / English Society in the Thirties


The Overall Doctrine / A Panoramic View of Society and Culture / Sociology of Knowledge / Social Stratification and Social Mobility / The Social Philosophy / From Ikon Painter to Professional Revolutionary / Student and Scholar at St. Petersburg / The Revolution and After / The First Years in America / The Harvard Years / Populist Thought: Herzen, Lavrov, and Mikhailovsky / Danilevsky and the Revolt Against the Idea of Linear Progress / St. Petersburg Teachers and Peers / An Abortive Revolution / The Perpetual Loner from the Komi People / A Loner in America


The Polish Peasant—A Landmark / The Polish Peasant—Its Theoretical Underpinnings / A Typology of Human Actors / William Isaac Thomas—From Ethnographer to Social Psychologist / Thomas’s Situational Analysis / Florian Znaniecki—Philosopher Turned Sociologist / Znaniecki’s Sociology of Knowledge


The Rise and Hegemony of Functional Analysis / The Resurgence of Microsociological and Conflict Theories

A Selected Reading List of Recent Works