Review by Choice Review
The authors, sociologists from the University of Sussex, have assembled in one volume approximately 1,000 entries that average 500-1,000 words and that provide an overview of main themes in social thought, broadly conceived, and their development from the beginning of the century (or earlier) to the present. The dictionary ranges widely from the social sciences to philosophy, political theories and doctrines, cultural ideas and movements, and the influence of the natural sciences. Much of the dictionary is devoted to particular bodies of thought, primarily from liberal Western European thinkers. In each of these cases a general essay is supplemented by other entries that elaborate specific aspects of the ideas and theories involved; e.g., the entry on Marxism is further developed in entries on the diverse schools and concepts that have emerged in Marxism. Each entry ends with a short list of readings. A separate general bibliography at the end of the dictionary lists all books and articles referred to in the text. A separate biographical appendix provides short accounts of selected individual thinkers who have made major contributions to social thought. The index is thorough. Unfortunately, scant information is provided on Third World and Asian thought and thinkers. This ambitious reference work is useful for college and university libraries. C. C. Hay III; Eastern Kentucky University
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review
Widely published in sociology and Marxism, Outhwaite and Bottomore, both of the University of Sussex, edit here "a reliable and comprehensive overview of the main themes of social thought" of the twentieth century. The articles were commissioned from more than 200 scholars, mostly British and European but also from other countries, including the U.S. The scope of the work includes major and influential concepts, methods, and movements from the social sciences, philosophy, political science, culture, and the natural sciences. The result is an economical, compact, and broad-ranging success. The entries can be categorized into three main types: major concepts of social thought (Morality, Crime and Deviance, Self-Management), principal schools of thought and movements (Durkheim School, Feminism, Keynesianism), and important institutions and organizations (Market, Military, State). Short biographical entries for 83 major social thinkers are reserved for an appendix. Cross-references are noted in small-capital letters within the text, and see references file in the main alphabetical arrangement. Each entry ends with a short list of further readings; a lengthy bibliography appears in the rear of the book. A comprehensive general index promises easy access to concepts, schools, and thinkers. Articles range in length from 500 to more than 2,500 words, with the longer ones devoted to individual social science disciplines or principal schools of thought. These typically include cross-references to related articles that elaborate on specific concepts. The entries consistently focus on a concept and its definition, its history and development, and its impact on twentieth-century thought. The four-page article Anthropology is representative. Following a brief definition is a discussion of how the field has fragmented into social and biological branches. The reader learns that the emphasis on comparative frameworks for mapping human variation is both the unifying element of the discipline and the basis for its impact on modern thought. The article summarizes the development of key concepts in various areas of anthropological investigation and concludes by noting the shift from documenting historical patterns toward an emphasis on practical applications. With such a breadth of contributors, the quality of writing necessarily varies. In the work's first entry, Action and Agency, one reads that "Aristotle, in his Nichomachean Ethics, saw the rationality of an action as lying in the conclusion which leads from intentions or norms and from assessments of the situation and of the available means to immediate consequences in terms of action." This is not writing that is easily digested. Many of the entries presume a basic familiarity with philosophy, political science, and social theory. Compared with this new work, the revised edition of The Harper Dictionary of Modern Thought [RBB S 1 88] generally provides shorter definitions for a larger number of concepts drawn from a wider range of fields, such as computer science, music, linguistics, and electoral politics. The Blackwell Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Social Thought provides lengthier treatments for a smaller universe of ideas. This dictionary is appropriate for college students and faculty, as well as sophisticated public library readers. In a small library with a tight budget, it might substitute for a raft of specialized dictionaries in the social sciences, especially where a twentieth-century focus is desired. In the large academic library, it will prove an important, unique addition, providing a summary and contemporary context for most major concepts in philosophy, economics, and political science. (Reviewed June 1993)
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.