Social Theory | Alexander Street
Social Theory

Social Theory

Social Theory is an online collection designed to provide comprehensive coverage of major social thinkers together with seminal texts from lesser figures. For many writers, the project represents the first availability of a major scholarly edition of their collected works. Extensive licensing allows readers to see both the original works and translations, searchable together in a single online collection for the first time. Essential for study in the areas of politics, economics, history, psychology, anthropology, religion, and literature, the works of many important thinkers in sociology have remained inaccessible until now.


The project contains more than 145,000 pages, with well over half of the materials in copyright. The collection includes the works of Max Weber, Karl Marx, Jürgen Habermas, Robert Merton, George Herbert Mead, Auguste Comte, Jean Baudrillard, Georg Hegel, Herbert Spencer, Antonio Gramsci, Mary Wollstonecraft, Alexis de Tocqueville, Harriet Martineau, Georg Simmel, Emile Durkheim, Anthony Giddens, Simone de Beauvoir, Norbert Elias, Michel Foucault, Peirre Bourdieu, Theodor Adorno, and thousands more.

The collection includes both large textual works as well as journal articles, the latter dating back far enough to explore how social theory has evolved from its beginning. For example: "A Suggestion on the Negro Problem," Charlotte Gilman Perkins, in American Journal of Sociology (1908); "Science in the High School," George Herbert Mead, in School Review 14, (1906); "Scientific Method and the Moral Sciences," George Herbert Mead, in International Journal of Ethics (1923).

How Will You Use It?

Social Theory brings to light, in a cohesive and easily citable form, materials that have been inaccessible previously. The materials are indexed using a specially created thesaurus of key sociological terms, enabling users quickly to identify, for example, all passages in Durkheim pertaining to "interventionistic reform," even where that term is not used explicitly; or to trace the evolution of a particular doctrine or philosophy through various authors' writings.

The collection is multi-disciplinary. Aside from the importance of sociology itself, there are many related disciplines served—including history, economics, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, literature and political science—and the collection is truly international. The Alexander Street software and interface work especially well for this subject area, handling large amounts of rare and hard-to-find materials, and it is well capable of handling French, German, and Italian, with powerful text analysis tools.

Some topics that the study of social theory helps to examine (from Key Sociological Thinkers, ed. Robert Stones, NYU Press) are:

  • The collective symbols and rituals of American collegiate football
  • Tweeds or jeans? Gold or soccer? Poetry or sitcoms? Taste as the distaste of the tastes of others (taste, classes, and classification)
  • Famous from being on television
  • How Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy got their audiences to applaud
  • Crime and moral outrage
  • The fashioning of the private soul
  • From the use of tobacco as a means to lose control to its use as a means of self-control

Publication Details

Social Theory is available on the Web either by annual subscription or through a one-time purchase of perpetual rights.