DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Change Is Inevitable Except For Moral Absolutes

Written by: on October 28, 2015

Change Is Inevitable Except For Moral Absolutes

Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction by Anthony Elliott


This book is a rich, introductory resource on contemporary social theory as it is reflected in the disciplines of sociology, politics, history, and cultural studies. It is a great textbook for individuals who have little or no exposure to the major historical developments and theoretical processes of these disciplines. The material is presented in a clear, simple, straightforward style that the novice can easily comprehend and it includes definitions or explanations of scientific or new terminology. I found the book to be quite riveting because it has really broadened my thinking and understanding regarding numerous societal issues and concerns on so many levels or as the author would say, on the various “textures of society.” [1] I plan to revisit this book for a more in depth reading when time will permit.

In this book, Elliott discusses the complexities of contemporary social theory since its beginnings in the 1920s to the present time. He states that his aim is to, “introduce readers to some of the most challenging perspectives, and surprising innovations, on the multidimensional aspect of contemporary social processes.” [2] These processes encompass global changes in the increasingly interrelationships regarding the everyday lives of individuals socially, culturally, and economically. There is a general consensus among social theorists that new social and cultural forms characterize the world in which we live, and which have required new terminology to describe. Terns like globalization, global transformation, borderless world, global citizen, border crossing, geopolitical, transnational, information technologies, and global warming express some of the new global realities in contemporary living.

The discussion in the book is developed around five main themes: “the relation between the individual and society; the degree of consensus or conflict in modern societies; change or social transformation; gender issues; and the relation between the social and the emotional, between our public and private worlds.” [3] The author’s commentary is supplemented by the arguments and counterarguments of a variety of classical and contemporary theorists from the Frankfurt School to globalism, respectively.

I found globalization and the new individualism to be of special interest because of the striking portrayal of the contemporary human condition revealing the global field as ripe for harvest in Christian evangelism. In The New Individualism: The Emotional Costs of Globalization (2006), Anthony Elliott and Charles Lemert study individuals in their response to “corporate and networking pressure in terms of self-identity.” [4] These authors describe this new individualism as a focus on “continual self-actualization and instant self-reinvention” . . . “in compulsive consumerism,” . . . “in a world that places a premium on instant gratification and the desire for immediate results.” [5]. The individuals these analysts studied in the new individualism were primarily confused, anxious, and depressed. Elliott and Lemert attribute this new individualism to be “a consequence of our world of intensive globalization that offers people a kind of absolute freedom to do whatever they like.” [6] In short, the theological implications of Elliott and Lemert’s findings would suggest that globalization promotes absolute freedom of choice in one’s actions instead of obedience to God’s absolute authority. No wonder they are spiritually and emotionally overwrought.
[1]. Anthony Elliott, Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction (London: Routledge, 2014), vii.
[2] Ibid., 7.
[3]. Ibid., 11-15.
[4]. Ibid., 360.
[5]. Ibid., 361.
[6] Ibid., 362.

Elliott, Anthony. Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction. London: Routledge, 2014.

About the Author

Claire Appiah

9 responses to “Change Is Inevitable Except For Moral Absolutes”

  1. Claire, I agree with you. Our greatest problem in the world is “the lie” that Paul refers to in Romans 1. A study of that shows that the moral degradation that Paul refers to is a result of believing “the lie.” The lie he is referring to is that human beings decided to worship self rather than worship God. How do we combat such a powerful drug on society? Great Post!

  2. Claire Appiah says:

    Thanks for your comments. I think the most effective way to transform our world is to be living epistles that live out the Christian faith in our everyday lives for the whole world to see.

  3. mm Rose Anding says:

    Yes Claire, the global field is ripe!
    As the world shrinks electronically and in speed of travel, the Church, as followers of Christ and representative of the poor, is faced with the challenge of being significant in the global dialogue of the future. “You have to be in it to win it!”The Church of the future must be replete with successful models and every effort has value in examining strategies and measuring results to be implemented in the fields which are ripe for harvest. When we review the theme of social changes that takes place almost in everyday life such as globalization, information technologies, techno industrialization of war …as stated in my blog, ccontemporary social theory is charged to assess the rate of change taking place in the lives of individuals in the modern society and at the same time criticizes the forces by institutions that drive such changes. This was an interesting read, but left me with true picture of realization of the way we are.
    Your blogs is interesting and filled with meat on the subject, which has enlightened us. Rose Maria

    • Claire Appiah says:

      Thanks for your wisdom and well articulated observations. You are correct; the church on the individual and corporate level have the challenge and responsibility to transform the world by applying successful models that work. They don’t have to look far for a successful model. They must strive to be like Jesus in every respect possible to humankind. They must teach the spiritual truths that He taught and live out His moral principles in everyday life. It does no good for the global field to be ripe for harvest, if God’s people will not be obedient and do the harvesting.

  4. Aaron Cole says:


    I enjoyed reading your blog and totally agree with you on the spiritual effect of the world in which we live. What do you think is a solution to the problem of being spiritually overwrought?


    • Claire Appiah says:

      Aaron C,
      Great question! That question is at the heart of a Christian’s sense of duty and is one every Christian needs to seriously ponder. As we observe myriad changes taking place all around us in our world that are not of God, we should be asking God what He wants us personally do to about them. We know that the individuals that are spiritually overwrought need to allow God to have the preeminence in their lives, not the world systems. The Great Commission is a mandate to every Christian to transform the world through the precepts He taught and exemplified. We Christians have an obligation to be salt and light throughout the earth realm in order to lead the masses out of spiritual darkness and being spiritually overwrought.

  5. Claire
    What a great blog. You always break these books down to bite sized pieces. Finding what the real core of the book is about and then defining it.

    Our minds track alike on this thought plain: if self can do whatever it wants, why does it not fulfill? Why does life fill with the opposite?

    I know you nailed it right on the head with your closing statement. Why do you think globalization has brought this so quickly into view? Do you think that America has thought way to much about itself as a world shaper when in reality we are just a bit part?


    • Claire Appiah says:

      Thanks for your comments and compliments. I do not know why globalization has brought human depravity into view so prominently in recent years. Especially, since some social theorists see it occurring over the centuries. It may have something to do with what Elliott describes as the intensification of globalization. It is occurring at such a high rate of speed in so many arenas simultaneously that we are now in a position to see its cumulative impact on the world culture. I think historically, America has always been a world shaper, but not necessarily in a good way. The good, bad, and ugly that America has promulgated throughout the years, is increasingly being assumed by other players on the global market.

  6. Great post, Claire!

    It’s interesting that you found Elliott’s material easy to comprehend and geared towards beginners. I found his writing style advanced and incomprehensible at times. He covered a variety of topics, but I feel as though he worked from the position of assumption – he assumed that his readers had a basic understanding of social theory and societal norms and glossed over the foundational structure of the science. The author’s writing style sought to break down the simplistic interactions that we have with one another and delve into a deeper understanding. Elliott sought to highlight the importance of comprehending semiotics and linguistics when assessing a conversation or interaction. Our words can vary in meaning and emotion based on signifiers. “In line with structuralist thought, Lacan argued that the relationship between signifier and signifieds is arbitrary. The designation of a signifier – ‘man’, for example – is defined by difference, in this case by the signifier ‘woman”’ (Elliott, 120). In this perspective, a signifier must always serve as a comparative when discussing meaning of terminology. Do you think that this is always true? Can we understand linguistics from the position of isolation, or do we always need a comparative to judge meaning?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *