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The misuse and use of metatheory


Some approaches to metatheory are criticized for their tendency to avoid scientific sociology's central task: to explain how the social universe operates. While much metatheory is intellectually stimulating, it can also be debilitating in that it pulls social theory into reviews of the history of ideas, textual debate, philosophical discourse, ideological critique, and other unresolvable intellectual issues. In so doing, metatheory directs attention away from the analysis of the operative dynamics of the social world. Such need not be the case, however, for metatheory can be used to produce better theories. A general strategy for using metatheory to produce theory is proposed, and portions of this strategy are illustrated with a preliminary analysis of several conflict theories.

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Turner, J.H. The misuse and use of metatheory. Sociol Forum 5, 37–53 (1990).

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Key words

  • theory
  • metatheory
  • science
  • conflict
  • exchange
  • Marx
  • Weber