Introducing Social Theory – Pip Jones

Read on for full review.

`Introducing Social Theory was recommended to me by my Contemporary Social Theory teacher (this is one of my third year university modules) because, as the teacher put it, it gives you a good starting mind set and way of looking at theory rather than being very in-depth about any particular one. Overall, it’s written in a very straight forward and no nonsense manner. It doesn’t overuse long words like some terrible journal articles I’ve been forced to read over the years.

It starts off with the ‘basics’ of theory. Various theories about how to view society and what not. It then has a few chapters on Sociology’s ‘fore fathers’: Marx, Durkheim, and Weber. A little dull and overly used admittedly – as there are many other writers and theorists out there before and after then that cover a wider range of topics between them and aren’t so…’beard-y rich men from one small section of the world’. But anyway…

It has a good chapter on feminism discussing original feminism and the movement towards more modern feminism, with a good, to the point explanation of why a lot of feminist theory isn’t great. Basically, wanting to advocate female rights and individuality while lumping them all in the same category of wants and needs is a little foolish.

The next chapter on Action theories was admittedly a little more wordy for me, it went over my head a bit – maybe because I’ve never bought into the whole ‘actors on a stage thing’ terribly.

The chapter on Foucault was…well rubbish, but mostly because it’s bad stuff. But that’s a criticism of Foucault – who does nothing but rephrase things people already know with his own half made up words – the writing of Jones wasn’t at fault.

This is followed by a chapter on relativism which is again something I don’t quite agree with – there is a difference between people’s relative opinions or social mannerisms or culture, and factual things that we know, for example, why and how it rains. The examples given in the chapter are also poor. ‘We once believed the atom could not be split and now we do’ – this isn’t to say some people think the atom can be split and some don’t. It was believed to be one way, which we have now since disproved by splitting the atom, updating our facts. The fact of the matter still is that we can split atoms, even if we didn’t realise yet – this has nothing to do with relative opinion.

Unfortunately Pip Jones does little in the Foucault or Relativism chapter in terms of discussing their negative points, leading to some very one sided chapters that mar a pretty good book.

The next chapter, covering modernity and post modernity is similar, fairly sensibly written but the subject matter is mostly rubbish. And there is nothing within the chapter criticising it. This is because Jones devoted a whole chapter to critiquing post modernity and its associated ideas, concluding sensibly that post modernism is in no way a useful theory. It does nothing to describe what living in the modern world is really like, and contains a lot of one sided arguments on the relative nature of ‘truth’ – ranting with more made up words to fill paper.  It’s a very good, solid chapter from Jones.

It presents all of the ideas in each chapter while also looking at how its history has continued into the modern world – which is a lot more practical and useful for a student. Overall I’ve really enjoyed the book and its simple style, I’m very happy I picked it up and think it’ll be a good foundation for theory work.

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