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11 Jun 2013
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£70.00
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9780230360600
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11 Jun 2013
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£22.99
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9780230360617
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DescriptionReviewsContentsAuthors

In this ambitious and bold book, Ralph Schroeder develops a new social theory centred on the notion of limits. The current era, from the 1970s onwards, has seen a departure from the three defining trends of the modern age: the struggle for social citizenship rights, the disembedding of markets, and the transformation of nature. Based on a comparative-historical analysis, the book argues that there are now similar constraints on social development throughout the global North and beyond. These constraints include the waning of conflicts driving the extension and deepening of rights, the instability of increasing financialization, and the progressive lack of control over the exploitation of natural resources. The key challenge for social theory therefore lies in identifying the cleavages between the dominant political, economic and cultural powers, and countervailing forces that can potentially overcome them.

The book explores several advanced Western democracies in depth, as well as China and India. It will fundamentally challenge our theoretical understanding of contemporary societies and their dynamics.


Description

In this ambitious and bold book, Ralph Schroeder develops a new social theory centred on the notion of limits. The current era, from the 1970s onwards, has seen a departure from the three defining trends of the modern age: the struggle for social citizenship rights, the disembedding of markets, and the transformation of nature. Based on a comparative-historical analysis, the book argues that there are now similar constraints on social development throughout the global North and beyond. These constraints include the waning of conflicts driving the extension and deepening of rights, the instability of increasing financialization, and the progressive lack of control over the exploitation of natural resources. The key challenge for social theory therefore lies in identifying the cleavages between the dominant political, economic and cultural powers, and countervailing forces that can potentially overcome them.

The book explores several advanced Western democracies in depth, as well as China and India. It will fundamentally challenge our theoretical understanding of contemporary societies and their dynamics.


Reviews

"The reader has come to expect brilliant sociological analysis from Ralph Schroeder, and his latest book is no exception. The scope is broad and what the author promises – and also delivers – is a theory of modern society, based on comparative-historical analysis. Recommended reading not only for sociologists, political scientists, and economists, but also for general readers who want to experience what really good social science is like." - Richard Swedberg, Professor of Sociology, Cornell University, USA

"This is the most thought-provoking piece of social theory I have encountered for years, suggesting as it does that our place in history has changed - with limits and constraints replacing dreams of progress. This is an elegant, high-powered, wide-ranging, and extremely disturbing book. It will cause a stir." - John A. Hall, Professor of Sociology, McGill University, Canada

"Ralph Schroeder presents a masterful sociological projection of the next phase of modernity. Pluralist democracy, market capitalism, and rapid-discovery science have triumphed everywhere, or soon will. But all major institutions have now come up against limits. Utopian prospects are no longer feasible, whether unlimited economic growth and control of nature, social equality, or political harmony. On the bright side, these structures make it unlikely there will be another world war or extremists taking power. After several spectacular centuries, the world is settling down to rattling around within confined limits. All thoughtful viewers of our future should take note." - Randall Collins, Dorothy Swaine Thomas Professor of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA

"This is an ambitious, original, and provocative analysis of the fundamental structures of modern society, especially strong in its analysis of economic markets and science and technology. A significant contribution to the grand classical tradition of comparative and historical sociology." Michael Mann, Professor of Sociology, University of California, USA


Contents

1. From the Birth of the Modern World to the Age of Limits
2. Convergence and Divergence
3. The Paths towards Pluralist Democracy: Liberal versus Radical Interpretations
4. Free and Unfree Markets
5. The Paradoxes of Science, Technology and Social Change
6. The Limits to Transforming the Environment
7. Three Cultures
8. Modernization and the Politics of Development
9. Social Theory in the Face of the Future


Authors

Ralph Schroeder is Professor at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, UK. He is author of Max Weber and the Sociology of Culture, Possible Worlds: The Social Dynamic of Virtual Reality Technologies, Avatars at Work and Play: Activities in Shared Virtual Environments (edited with Ann-Sofie Axelsson), Rethinking Science, Technology and Social Change, Being There Together: Social Interaction in Virtual Environments and, with Eric Meyer, Networks of Knowledge: Digital Transformations of Research.