Foundations of Social Theory

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Harvard University Press, 1994 - Social Science - 993 pages
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Combining principles of individual rational choice with a sociological conception of collective action, James Coleman recasts social theory in a bold new way. The result is a landmark in sociological theory, capable of describing both stability and change in social systems.

This book provides for the first time a sound theoretical foundation for linking the behavior of individuals to organizational behavior and then to society as a whole. The power of the theory is especially apparent when Coleman analyzes corporate actors, such as large corporations and trade unions. He examines the creation of these institutions, collective decision making, and the processes through which authority is revoked in revolts and revolutions.

Coleman discusses the problems of holding institutions responsible for their actions as well as their incompatibility with the family. He also provides a simple mathematical analysis corresponding to and carrying further the verbal formulations of the theory. Finally, he generates research techniques that will permit quantitative testing of the theory.

From a simple, unified conceptual structure Coleman derives, through elegant chains of reasoning, an encompassing theory of society. It promises to be the most important contribution to social theory since the publication of Talcott Parsons' Structure of Social Action in 1936.

 

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Contents

Actors and Resources Interest and Control
27
Rights to Act
45
Authority Relations
65
Systems of Social Exchange
119
From Authority Relations to Authority Systems
145
Systems of Trust and Their Dynamic Properties
175
Collective Behavior
197
The Demand for Effective Norms
241
Responsibility of Corporate Actors
553
New Generations in the New Social Structure
579
The Relation of Sociology to Social Action in the
610
The New Social Structure and the New Social Science
650
The Linear System of Action
667
Empirical Applications
701
Extensions of the Theory
719
Trust in a Linear System of Action
747

The Realization of Effective Norms
266
Social Capital
300
Constitutions and the Construction of Corporate Actors
325
The Problem of Social Choice
371
From Individual Choice to Social Choice
397
The Corporate Actor as a System of Action
421
Rights and Corporate Actors
451
Revoking Authority
466
The Self
503
Natural Persons and the New Corporate Actors
531
Power the MicrotoMacro Transition and Interpersonal
769
Externalities and Norms in a Linear System of Action
785
Indivisible Events Corporate Actors and Collective
829
Dynamics of the Linear System of Action
874
Unstable and Transient Systems of Action
899
The Internal Structure of Actors
932
References
951
Name Index
973
Subject Index
979
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About the author (1994)

James S. Coleman is an American sociologist who has focused much of his work on mathematical sociology. His areas of interest have been social conflict, collective decision making, and the sociology of education. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1955 and taught at Johns Hopkins University. Coleman is best known for heading a commission charged by the federal government with investigating the lack of educational opportunities for minorities in public schools. The document produced by the commission, Equity of Educational Opportunity (1966), is better known as the Coleman Report. It indicated that student achievement has more to do with family background and peer environment than with school resources. The Coleman Report became the basis for the institution of student busing to achieve racial integration in public schools.

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