Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction by Anthony Elliott is a compilation of ideas, thoughts, and theories of social theory as well as critiques of each. This is all predicated upon the idea of society being not be based or relegated to a geographical location, but rather mainly driven by vocation. The fictional Natalie and the question of where she belongs introduce this idea. The major driver of this concept of Social Theory is change. Change is creating new society and is the informer to this new world in which we live.
This book looks at Social Theory by exploring key concepts or themes. The first is the relation between individual and society. The second is the degree of consensus or conflict in modern society. The third is the theme of change or social transformation, which brings to life what we know as globalization. The final theme is the relation between the social and the emotional and where our private and public worlds meet. This book really investigates the “why” behind societal activity and looks for ways to answer the questions of our world today. It does this by looking to the past to inform the present and predict the future.
In my analysis of this book is that it is a compilation of secular experts giving or critiquing social theory in order to explain why human behavior and society is out of order. Nobody in the secular or sacred world is debating or defending the society in which we all live. They are all trying to explain and understand it in an attempt to forecast where we are going and how will we be when we arrive. From Marshall Berman’s Marxist based idea that freedom leads to problems; to George Ritzer’s idea of overcompensation by use of efficiency; or Weber’s industrial mechanism. It all leads to the idea that we are broken as a people. Robert Putnam and Emile Durkheim say that we as an American society are losing ground morally, albeit for different reasons. The essence is the same we as a society are out of order.
Interestingly everybody has ideas why and even fewer have theories as to how to fix the “out of order” society. The problem is because no one can agree on the problem, therefore no one can agree on the solution. Even with Ferdinand de Saussure’s structural linguistics idea that common communication can fix or change things does neither, it only brings clarity to the issue but not a solution. Even Giddens’s perspective that routines, habits, and competencies hold the solution does nothing more than bring more confirmation that we are out of order. I do not believe that there is not at the very least some truth to any or all of these ideas. Nor do I deny that they give powerful insight into what we as humans do or why we do it. My objection is than due to the secular humanistic nature of the experts mentioned; we (humanity) deny the truth in our own wickedness (Romans 1:18). We (humanity) are blind. We (humanity) are out of order and we cannot even see that. All the expertise does is simply confirms but offers no answer. They are looking for the answer to the creation’s problems in the creation, instead of the creator. The only answer to the creation’s problems is found in the creator. The answer, we are out of order.