The Meaning of ‘Theory’*

@article{Abend2008TheMO,
  title={The Meaning of ‘Theory’*},
  author={Gabriel Abend},
  journal={Sociological Theory},
  year={2008},
  volume={26},
  pages={173 - 199}
}
  • Gabriel Abend
  • Published 1 June 2008
  • Philosophy, Sociology
  • Sociological Theory
‘Theory’ is one of the most important words in the lexicon of contemporary sociology. Yet, their ubiquity notwithstanding, it is quite unclear what sociologists mean by the words ‘theory,’ ‘theoretical,’ and ‘theorize.’ I argue that confusions about the meaning of ‘theory’ have brought about undesirable consequences, including conceptual muddles and even downright miscommunication. In this paper I tackle two questions: (a) what does ‘theory’ mean in the sociological language?; and (b) what… 

Figures from this paper

The Politics of Theory and the Constitution of Meaning
How should sociologists use the word theory? Gabriel Abend’s recent insistence that this question should be tackled politically raises two important issues: Is sociology political? And if so, what
The meanings of theorizing.
TLDR
Different ways in which theorizing can be understood are discussed, which allows me to make the judgments and choices invoked in Swedberg’s account explicit in a different way and to examine some of the obstacles to implementing Swedberg's agenda.
Two main problems in the sociology of morality
Sociologists often ask why particular groups of people have the moral views that they do. I argue that sociology’s empirical research on morality relies, implicitly or explicitly, on unsophisticated
From Contradiction to Coherence: Theory Building in the Sociology of Culture
“Culture” is one of sociology’s central theoretical concepts. Though cultural explanations of social phenomena fell out of favor for a time (for a variety of various political and intellectual
How to criticize? On Honneth’s method
ABSTRACT This article investigates the meaning and role of social critique in the social sciences. This form of theorizing has always been a significant part of the social sciences. Due to the
Meanings of Theory: Clarifying Theory through Typification
Developing and evaluating scientific knowledge and its value requires a clear – or at least not too unclear – understanding of what ‘theory’ means. We argue that common definitions of theory are too
How Can Theories Represent Social Phenomena?
  • J. Fuhse
  • Philosophy
    Sociological Theory
  • 2022
Discussions in sociological theory often focus on ontological questions on the nature of social reality. Against the underlying epistemological realism, I argue for a constructivist notion of theory:
What is a method? On the different uses of the term method in sociology
ABSTRACT This article has two major goals: to present the different ways in which sociologists use the term ‘method’; and to suggest a tentative explanation why these been invested with their current
The 'shifting' nature of theory in International Relations : why the future of the discipline is its Waltzian past
Within the discipline of International Relations (IR), 'new' conceptions of theory, specifically those subscribing to, on the one hand, an inductivist and empiricist conception of theory, and, on the
Evidence and interest in social theory
What is social theory? This paper opens with a conception of social theory as an ontological approach explicating the nature of the worldview that we should adopt provided that the results of the
...
...

References

SHOWING 1-10 OF 107 REFERENCES
Why Pluralism Still Makes Sense for Sociological Theory: Reply to Stephen Sanderson
In his recent Perspectives article, “Reforming Theoretical Work in Sociology: A Modest Proposal,” Stephen Sanderson calls for two things: founding a new theory journal to give “scientific”
II ON SOCIOLOGICAL THEORIES OF THE MIDDLE RANGE
  • Sociology
L,KE s o MANY WORDS that are bandied about, the won! theory threatens to become meaningless. Because its referents are so diverse­ including everything from minor working hypotheses, through compre­
Have Historical Sociologists Forsaken Theory?
With the re-emergence of historical sociology as a dominant focus of inquiry has come a renewed interest in more general methodological, theoretical, and epistemological issues that have long
What Is Wrong with Social Theory
* Paper read at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Society, August, 1953. 1 There are two other legitimate and important kinds of social theory which I do not propose to assess. One of
Against Theory
By "theory" we mean a special project in literary criticism: the attempt to govern interpretations of particular texts by appealing to an account of interpretation in general. The term is sometimes
In Defense of Positivism
propositions which can serve as an inducement to raise the level of abstraction of empiricallv laden statements. Conversely, middle range theories can potentially be one vehicle by which more
Einstein, Renoir, and Greeley: Some Thoughts about Evidence in Sociology
It is relatively easy to determine if evidence supports or does not support a given theory or conclusion, but a central problem in sociology is our inability to go beyond this and develop truly
Mind, language, and reality
Introduction 1. Language and philosophy 2. The analytic and synthetic 3. Do true assertions correspond to reality? 4. Some issues in the theory of grammar 5. The 'innateness hypothesis' and
Visions of the Sociological Tradition
In this work, Don Levine moves from the origins of systematic knowledge in ancient Greece to the present day in order to present an account that is at once a history of the social science enterprise
The Race for Theory
I have seized this occasion to break the silence among those of us, critics, as we are now called, who have been intimidated, devalued by what I call the race for theory. I have become convinced that
...
...