Eviatar Zerubavel, “Generally Speaking: An Invitation to Concept-Driven Sociology” (Oxford UP, 2020)

Defying the conventional split between “theory” and “methodology,” Eviatar Zerubavel’s Generally Speaking: An Invitation to Concept-Driven Sociology (Oxford UP, 2020) introduces a yet unarticulated and thus far never systematised method of theorising designed to reveal abstract social patterns. Insisting that such methodology can actually be taught, it tries to make the mental processes underlying the practice of a “concept-driven sociology” more explicit. Many sociologists tend to study the specific, often at the expense of also studying the generic. To correct this imbalance, the book examines the theoretico-methodological process by which we can “distil” generic social patterns from the culturally, historically, and situationally specific contexts in which we encounter them. It thus champions a “generic sociology” that is pronouncedly transcontextual (transcultural, transhistorical, transsituational, and translevel) in its scope. In order to uncover generic, transcontextual social patterns, data need to be collected in a wide range of social contexts. Such contextual diversity is manifested multi-culturally, multi historically, multi situationally, as well as at multiple levels of social aggregation. True to its message, the book illustrates generic social patterns by drawing on numerous examples from diverse cultural contexts and historical periods and a wide range of diverse social domains, as well as by disregarding scale. Emphasising cross-contextual commonality, generic sociology tries to reveal formal “parallels” across seemingly disparate contexts. This book features the four main types of cross-contextual analogies generic sociologists tend to use (cross-cultural, cross-historical, cross-domain, and cross-level), disregarding conventionally noted substantive differences in order to note conventionally disregarded formal equivalences.

Rituparna Patgiri is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi. She has a PhD in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. Her research interests lie in the areas of food, media, gender and public. She is also one of the co-founders of Doing Sociology. Patgiri can be reached at @Rituparna37 on Twitter.

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