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Some ten years ago, I conceived the project of examining the residue of nineteenth-century European social theory for contemporary problems of the social sciences. Virtually all my work since that date has been concerned with developing that project. It seemed to me then, and still seems to me now, that social science in the contemporary world bears the strong imprint of ideas worked out in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Europe. These ideas must be radically overhauled today: any appropriation we make from nineteenth-century social thought has to be a thoroughly critical one. This judgement must include the texts of Marx. I have not altered the opinion implied in Capitalism and Modern Social Theory1 — which I thought of as an exegetical preparation to an extended critique of nineteenth-century social thought — that there are no easy dividing-lines to be drawn between Marxism and ‘bourgeois social theory’. Whatever differences might exist between these, they share certain common deficiencies deriving from the context of their formation; no one today, I think, can remain true to the spirit of Marx by remaining true to the letter of Marx.

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Notes and References

  1. Anthony Giddens, Capitalism and Modern Social Theory (Cambridge University Press, 1971).

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  2. Anthony Giddens, New Rules of Sociological Method (London: Hutchinson, 1976).

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  3. Anthony Giddens, Studies in Social and Political Theory (London: Hutchinson, 1977).

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  4. William James, A Pluralistic Universe (New York: Longman, 1943) p. 254.

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  5. For a discussion, see Alvin I. Goldman, A Theory of Human Action (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1970) pp. 123–4.

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© 1979 Anthony Giddens

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Giddens, A. (1979). Introduction. In: Central Problems in Social Theory. Contemporary Social Theory. Palgrave, London.

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