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  1. Residuality and Inconsistency in the Interpretation of Socio-Theoretical Systems

    This article addresses the interpretation and criticism of theoretical systems. Its particular focus is on how to assess the success of theories in dealing with some specific phenomenon. We are interested in how to differentiate between cases where a theory offers an unsatisfactory acknowledgment of a specified phenomenon and those where a theory offers a deeper, more systematic understanding.
  2. What’s Alter Got to Do with It? A Consideration of Network Content and the Social Ties That Provide It

    The strength of weak ties is among the most important theories in the social sciences. One paradoxical element of the theory has been widely understood and valued—that weak ties connect disparate regions of social structure. Less appreciated, however, is the arguably more paradoxical implication that someone only weakly connected to another would provide value beyond that which is provided by the recipient’s (ego’s) strong ties. Once this paradoxical feature of the theory and associated empirical literatures is acknowledged, the interests of the resource provider (alter) demand consideration.
  3. Meaning and Modularity: The Multivalence of “Mechanism” in Sociological Explanation

    Mechanisms are ubiquitous in sociological explanation. Recent theoretical work has sought to extend mechanistic explanation further still: into cultural and interpretative analysis. Yet it is not clear that the concept of mechanism can coherently unify interpretation and causal explanation within a single explanatory framework. We note that sociological mechanistic explanation is marked by a crucial disjuncture.
  4. “Daddies,” “Cougars,” and Their Partners Past Midlife: Gender Attitudes and Relationship and Sexual Well-Being among Older Adults in Age-Heterogenous Partnerships

    Discussion of “daddies” has exploded in popular discourse, yet there is little sociological research on age-heterogenous partnerships. This paper uses data from the 2013 Midlife in the United States survey and the 2015–2016 National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project to examine age-heterogenous partnerships at older ages (63 was the approximate average age of each sample).

  5. Thinking with Bourdieu against Bourdieu: A ‘Practical’ Critique of the Habitus

    There are two strands in Bourdieu's sociological writings. On the one hand, Bourdieu argues for a theoretical position one might term his “practical theory” which emphasizes virtuosic interactions between individuals. On the other hand, and most frequently, Bourdieu appeals to the concept of the habitus according to which society consists of objective structures and determined—and isolated—individuals.

  6. The Meaning of 'Theory'

    ‘Theory’ is one of the most important words in the lexicon of contemporary sociology. Yet, their ubiquity notwithstanding, it is quite unclear what sociologists mean by the words ‘theory,’ ‘theoretical,’ and ‘theorize.’ I argue that confusions about the meaning of ‘theory’ have brought about undesirable consequences, including conceptual muddles and even downright miscommunication. In this paper I tackle two questions: (a) what does ‘theory’ mean in the sociological language?; and (b) what ought ‘theory’ to mean in the sociological language? I proceed in five stages.

  7. Data Collection as Disruption: Insights from a Longitudinal Study of Young Adulthood

    Research disrupts the social world, often by making respondents aware that they are being observed or by instigating reflection upon particular aspects of life via the very act of asking questions. Building on insights from the first Hawthorne studies, reflexive ethnographers, and methodologists concerned with panel conditioning, we draw on six years of research within a community in southern Malawi to introduce a conceptual framework for theorizing disruption in observational research.

  8. Essay: Sociology's New Steps?

    It was the devastating problems linked to the dramatic shift from farm to factory during the nineteenth century that fueled sociology’s origins, whether we turn to Comte, Marx, Weber, Durkheim, or Simmel. Building on the eighteenth-century Enlightenment spirit of the power of reason and freedom as well as the triumphs of the biophysical sciences, they envisaged a powerful science of human behavior that could solve those problems.

  9. Profit as Social Rent: Embeddedness and Stratification in Markets

    This article shows how research on the social structure of markets may contribute to the analysis the growing income inequality in contemporary capitalist economies. The author proposes a theoretical link between embeddedness and social stratification by discussing the role of institutions and networks in markets for the distribution of economic profits between firms. The author claims that we must understand profit and free competition as opposites, as economic theory does.

  10. Toward a Hermeneutic Model of Cultural Globalization: Four Lessons from Translation Studies

    Many scholars study the global diffusion of culture, looking at how institutions spread culture around the world or at how intermediaries (or “cultural brokers”) adapt foreign culture in the local context. This research can tell us much about brokers’ “cultural-matching” or “congruence-building” strategies. To date, however, few scholars have examined brokers’ interpretive work. In this article, the author argues that globalization research needs to pay more attention to interpretation.