Contemporary Mainstream Theory - Nicole Davis


Contemporary Mainstream1. Contemporary Mainstream theory embraces many different branches of social science. Economists, social revolutionaries, sociologists and philosophers who are concerned with the ways in which societies function nationally and trans-nationally are responsible for Contemporary Mainstream theory. Contemporary Mainstream theorists are particularly interested in globalization and how it has and will continue affect both the global North as well as the global South. Contemporary Mainstream attempts to bridge gaps traditionally left out of sociology by combining the study of social systems as well as the study of economic systems and how they have influenced one another historically and continue to influence each another.

There appears to be two sides (at least) to Contemporary Mainstream theory. There are theorists concerned primarily with economics of whole nations and there are theorists concerned mainly with the rights and economic chances of individual citizens.

Michel Foucault (1926 - 1984)

Michel Foucault, a French Philosopher, Historian and Sociologist was perhaps the founding member of contemporary theory. Foucault combined many previously uncombined subjects to criticize history and explain why and how certain elements in modern society evolved. Foucault was especially concerned with power and how it influenced knowledge. Foucault believed that power could not be separated from knowledge, that both were needed together in order to attain a goal. Power, as it was tied with knowledge, was then not situated in a pyramid as thought by Historical Materialists. Power, according to Foucault, is structured more like a web, with individuals having access to different parts of the web. Essentially, in Foucault's view, everyone has some access to power.

This web of power, in Foucault's view, is always changing. "Power is everywhere," Foucault writes, and is often characterized by tactics. (Foucault, History of Sexuality, Vol 1:95) And, since everyone has power, there is no "great Refusal, no soul of revolt, no source of all rebellions," rather, there is resistance from all sides. There are many geographies of resistance throughout the matrix of power. (Foucault, History of Sexuality, Vol.1: 97)

Discourse, Foucault believed, was the way in which knowledge was obtained and reproduced. An oppressed group, for instance, could develop a discourse and change their position of power in the web. In this way, within the matrix of power, discourse is a tool that can be applied to points of resistance. For example, Foucault applies the power of discourse to the Gay Rights Movement. Within the discourse of social control, condemning homosexuality, homosexuality began to "speak in it's own behalf." (Foucault, History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: 99)

Check out these two videos that feature Michel Foucault talking about power and everyones favorite living anarchist, Noam Chomsky. Talk about reaching a synthesis. (I can't seem to get my links to embed in the page. Any help would be appreciated.)



Immanuel Wallerstein (1930 -

A great example of how globalization has affected the US economy can be found in William Julius Wilson's The Bridge over the Racial Divide.

William Julius Wilson (1935 -

Wilson is a professor of Sociology at Harvard. My roommate had him as a professor while an undergrad and I hear he's a pretty funny guy.

Bibliography Contemporary Mainstream

Foucault, Michel. 1976. "Power as Knowledge" (473-479)
Giddens, Anthony. 1990. "Post-Modernity or Radicalized Modernity?" (485-491)
Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2003. "Geo-political Cleavages of the Twenty-first Century" (597-602)
Tilly, Charles. 19xx. "Future Social Science and the Invisible Elbow"
Wilson, William Julius. 19xx. "Global Economic Changes and the Limits of the Race Relations Vision"
Alexander, Jeffrey. 1987. "Postpositivist Case for the Classics" (503-506)
Coleman, James S. 1990. "The New Social Structure and the New Social Science" (506-510)

Mills Library

See Foucault material (see index) in Gane, Mike. 2003. French Social Theory. Sage Publications Ltd (Ebrary HM22.F8 — G36 2003eb)
Giddens, Anthony.1982. Profiles and critiques in social theory. Berkeley : University of California Press (301.01 G453p)
Giddens, Anthony. 1979. Central problems in social theory : action, structure, and contradiction in social analysis. Berkeley : University of California Press. (301 G453ce 1979)

1. Contemporary refers to belonging or occurring in the present. Oxford Dictionaries. April 2010. Oxford Dictionaries. April 2010. Oxford University Press. (accessed December 07, 2010)
Mainstream is regarded as the "attitudes, ideas or activities considered normal or conventional; a dominant trend. "mainstream". Oxford Dictionaries. April 2010. Oxford Dictionaries. April 2010. Oxford University Press. (accessed December 07, 2010)
Together, contemporary mainstream theory could be construed as theories that are accepted as relevant in our present world.
2.SEÀN Ó RIAIN and Peter B. Evans. “Globalization And Global Systems Analysis.” Encyclopedia of Sociology. Vol. 2, 2nd Edition ed. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2001. P. 1084-1098.
3. Ibid
4. Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2003. Geo-Political Cleavages of the Twenty-First Century. Ed. Charles Lemert, Social Theory: The Multi Cultural and Classic Readings.2004: 595.
Ibid //595
Wilson, William Julius. 1999.
Global Economic Changes and the Limits of the Race Relations Vision.
Ed. Charles Lemert, //Social Theory: The Multi Cultural and Classic Readings.
2004: 654

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