How to theorize a research? Richard Swedberg’s “The Art of Social Theory” is a unique book about the craft of theorizing

Richard Swedberg The Art of Social Theory

In the social sciences today, students are taught theory by reading and analyzing the works of Karl Marx, Karl Polanyi, Max Weber and other classics. What they rarely learn, however, is how to actually theorize. The Art of Social Theory is a practical guide to doing just that. (Open access to the Introduction chapter)
In this unique user’s manual for social theorists, drawing on philosophy, epistemology, and cognitive science, a leading economic sociologist and expert on social theory Richard Swedberg (Cornell University) proficiently explains how theorizing occurs in what he calls the context of discovery, a process in which the researcher gathers preliminary data and thinks creatively about it using tools such as metaphor, analogy, and typology. He guides readers through each step of the theorist’s art, from observation and naming to concept formation and explanation. To theorize well, you also need a sound knowledge of existing social theory. Swedberg introduces readers to the most important theories and concepts, and discusses how to go about mastering them.
For example, Swedberg recommends adding a new phase at the beginning of a project before the research design is drawn – what he calls the pre-study, a time when early theorizing occurs by observing a topic intensely and discovering something interesting or surprising to develop and explain. Instead of rushing to use “scientific methods to try to prove their points,” social scientists ought to spend more time exploring empirical data and developing creative research ideas, Swedberg said. Swedberg writes: “It is important, in other words, not to pick your final topic until you have been surprised. If you follow this rule, you will study something that might lead to new knowledge.”
Richard Swedberg smoothly demystifies the process of theorizing, making it accessible and exciting. Concurrently, The Art of Social Theory is also erudite and rich with historical allusion.
Mark Granovetter, Thomas C. Schelling, Frank Dobbin and Isaac Ariail Reed enthusiastically endorse this project, as much as we do.

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