Contemporary social and cultural theory (including post-structuralist, semiotic, psychoanalytic, feminist, and queer theory); the history of the social sciences; sociological classics, canons, and founders; literary and interpretive methods; aesthetic sociology; the visual representation of concepts and arguments.
Current Research Activities
My research advances European and North American traditions of classical and contemporary social theory from the late 18th century to the present. Rather than focus on the scientific formulation and empirical testing of hypotheses, I emphasize the reappraisal of classic problems and the recovery of forgotten or undervalued ideas, texts, and authors in the history of the social sciences. I aim to show how the use of rhetorical arguments, interprtive methods, and literary genres in the formation of concepts enhances the public significance and cultural relevance of thinking sociologically.
To date my publications and current research have emerged from five distinct yet overlapping and closely related research projects:
- My work on both well-known and posthumously published writings of Karl Marx (1818-1883) examines how ‘melodramatic’ narratives inform his critique of political economy, and how they affect the contemporary significance of his influential account of the confrontation between classes for the post-socialist world of globalizing markets.
- My studies of the speeches and writings of Max Weber (1856-1920) address the ‘allegorical’ character of his interpretive sociology of capitalism and bureaucracy, including its implications for how we understand science, politics, and art as modern professions or callings.
- A series of essays on non-canonical sociological thinkers takes up the thesis of Georg Simmel (1858-1918) concerning the ‘tragedy’ of technological culture, with a focus on how gender and generational, racial and ethnic identities are being transformed under the impact of new forms of imperial power and social media.
- With reference to the ‘comical’ strain in Emile Durkheim’s (1858-1917) lectures on civil society, I am currently undertaking an ethnographic investigation into the impact and effectiveness of classrooms-in-the-field — specifically an urban field school (Vancouver) and a study abroad program (Vancouver) — on students, faculty, and community partners hailed as global citizens.
- Drawing on Sigmund Freud’s (1856-1939) psychoanalytic case studies and dream-intepretation, an ongoing project examines the unspoken dimensions of everyday personal experience and the unconscious limits of popular culture as they are expressed in terms of the fantasies of the family ‘romance’.
Through a substantial body of publications in a variety of interdisciplinary and international venues, my research bridges the social sciences and humanities by examining their common intellectual sources and by experimenting with innovative techniques for the critical interpretation of texts and the visual display of concepts.
Carla Nappi interviewed me on Weber for her New Books series:
Simon Dawes interviewed Austin Harrington and me on Simmel for the special issue of Theory, Culture & Society that we co-edited:
And you can also check out my video abstract for this issue on the TCS website and on YouTube:
2014. Intellectual Work and the Spirit of Capitalism: Weber’s Calling. Palgrave Macmillan.
2004. The Vocation of Reason: Studies in Critical Theory and Social Science in the Age of Max Weber, by H. T. Wilson. Edited with an Introduction on “The Age of Weber” by Thomas M. Kemple. Leiden: The Netherlands: E.J. Brill Academic Publishers.
1995. Reading Marx Writing: Melodrama, the Market, and the ‘Grundrisse.’ Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
Journal Articles and Book Chapters
2014. “Mannheim’s Pendulum: Refiguring Legal Cosmopolitanism.” Special Issue on ‘Law as… Theory and Method in Legal History’, edited by Christopher Tomlins. UC Irvine Law Review 4 (1): 273-295.
2013. “Allegories of the End: Classical Sociologies of Economic Sustainability and Cultural Ruin.” Special Issue on ‘The End(s) of History’, edited by Amy Swiffen and Joshua Nichols. Journal of Historical Sociology 26 (3): 365-382.
2012. “Georg Simmel’s ‘Sociological Metaphysics’: Money, Sociality, and Precarious Life.” With Austin Harrington. Special Double-Issue on ‘Simmel’s Sociological Metaphysics’, edited by Austin Harrington and Thomas M. Kemple. Theory, Culture & Society 29 (4): 6-25.
2012. “Un problème de chiffres: ‘l’utilisation des conaissances empiriques en statistique dans la théorie sociale classique.” With Zohreh Bayatrizi. Translated by Jan Baertens. Special issue on ‘Reciprocités sociales: Lectures de Simmel,’ edited by Gregor Fitzi and Denis Thouard. Sociologies et sociétés XLIV (2): 54-74.
2012. “The Eye / I of Capital: Classical Theoretical Reflections on the Spectral Economies of Late Capitalism.” In The Economy as Cultural System: Theory, Capitalism, Crisis. Edited by Todd Dufresne and Clara Sacchetti. London: Continuum Press, pp 1-20.
2011. “The Spatial Sense of Empire: Encountering Strangers with Simmel, Tocqueville and Martineau.” Journal of Classical Sociology 11 (4): 340-355. (Reprinted in Oñati Socio-Legal Series 2 (7) 2012: 1-17. Available from: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2004301).
2011. “The Saving Power of Social Action: Arendt between Weber and Foucault”. Action and Appearance: Ethics and the Politics of Writing in Hannah Arendt. Edited by Anna Yeatman, Philip Hansen, Charles Barbour, Magdalena Zolkos-Kavalski. London: Continuum.
2009. “The Sociological Imagination and its Imperial Shadows.” Co-Authored with Renisa Mawani. Theory, Culture & Society 26 (7-8): 228-249.
2009. “Weber / Simmel / Du Bois: Musical Thirds of Classical Sociology.” Journal of Classical Sociology 9 (2): 183-203.
2007. “Allosociality: Bridges and Doors to Simmel’s Social Theory of the Limit.” Theory, Culture & Society (Annual Review) 24 (7-8): 1-19.
2007. “‘Let the Streets Take Care of Themselves’: Making Sociological and Common Sense Out of ‘Skid Row’.” Co-Authored with Laura Huey. Urban Studies 44 (12): 2305-2319.
2007. “Spirits of Late Capitalism.” Theory, Culture & Society 24 (3): 147-159.
2006. “‘Unfashionable Observations’ on the Use and Abuse of Weber.” Minerva 44: 325-337.
2006. “Observing the Observers: Researching Surveillance and Counter-Surveillance on ‘Skid Row’.” Co-authored with Laura Huey. Surveillance & Society 3 (2/3): 139-157.
2006. “Founders, Classics, and Canons in the Formation of Social Theory.” In Handbook of European Social Theory. Edited by Gerard Delantey. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 3-13.
2005. “Writing the Republic: Politics and Polemics in ‘The German Ideology’.” With Charles Barbour. Telos 130: 9-37.
2005. “Instrumentum Vocale: A Note on Max Weber’s Value-Free Polemics and Sociolgical Aesthetics.” Theory, Culture & Society 22 (4): 1-22. (To be reprinted in Max Weber, edited by Alan Sica. London: Ashgate Publishers. Forthcoming February 2013).
2005. “The Pleasures of Silence” (Feature Editorial). Semiotic Review of Books (January): 1-4.
2004. “L’Effet Comte: Recycling French Social Theory.” Journal of Classical Sociology 24 (2) 2004: 360-388.
2003. “The Last Hand: On the Craft of Editing Weber’s Börsenschriften.” With Cornelia Meyer Stoll. Max Weber Studies 3 (2): 165-194.
2001. “The Trials of Homo Clausus: Weber, Elias, and Goethe on the Sociogenesis of the Modern Self.” In Human Interdepencies and Norbert Elias: A Critical Reader. Edited By Thomas Salumets. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press, pp. 137-48.
2001. “Sycophancy” (Feature Editorial). Semiotic Review of Books 1 (3): 1-2.
2000. “Post-Marx: Temporal Rhetoric and Textual Action in The Communist Manifesto.” Rethinking Marxism. 12 (2): 44-60.
1997. “The Unrepresentable: Weber and Klinger on the Forms of Death.” Semiotic Review of Books 8 (3): 11-12.
1996. “Trois figures de la psychose: Schreber en procès.” Translated by Jean-François Côté. In Schreber et la paranoia: Le meutre de l’âme. Edited by Eduardo Prado de Oliveira. Paris: L’Harmattan, pp. 175-220.
1996. “Les Illusions spéculaires du capitalisme: Marx et Balzac sur les fictions critiques de l’économie politique.” Translated by Louis Jacob. Special issue on “La Sociologie saisie par la littérature” . Cahiers de recherche sociologique (26): 35-59.
1995. “Litigating Illiteracy: The Media, the Law, and ‘The People of the State of New York vs. Delbert Ward’.” Canadian Journal of Law and Society 10 (2): 73-97.
2012. Georg Simmel: “Selections from Simmel’s Writings for the Journal Jugend: ‘Beyond Beauty’ (anecdote 1897); ‘Only a Bridge’ (poem 1901); ‘Money Alone Doesn’t Bring Happiness’ (snapshot sub specie aeternitatis 1901); ‘The Maker of Lies’ (snapshot 1901); ‘Relativity’ (snapshot 1902); ‘La Duse (snapshot 1901).” Translated from the German with an introduction. Special Double-Issue on ‘Simmel’s Sociological Metaphysics’, edited by Austin Harrington and Thomas M. Kemple. Theory, Culture & Society (Annual Review) 29 (4): 263-278.
2007. Georg Simmel: “Rome” (1898), “Florence” (1906), “Venice” (1907), “The Social Boundary” (1908), “The Metaphysics of Death” (1910), “The Problem of Fate” (1913), “Goethe and Youth” (1914), “‘Become What You Are'” (1915). Translated from the German with Ulrich Teucher with an introduction and notes. Special Section on ‘Simmel’s Metaphysics, Ethics, and Aesthetics’, edited by Thomas M. Kemple. Theory, Culture & Society (Annual Review) 24 (7-8): 20-90.
2005. Max Weber: “Remarks on ‘Technology and Culture'” (1910/1911). Translated from the German with Beatrix Zumsteg, with an introduction and notes. Theory, Culture & Society 22 (4): 23-37.
2001. Jean Baudrillard:. “The Border: Toward the Seventh Spring of the German Democratic Republic.” Translated from the French. In The Uncollected Baudrillard. Edited by Gary Genosko. London: SAGE, pp. 29-38.
2012. Review of Twentieth Century Music and the Question of Modernity, by Eduardo De La Fuente. Thesis 11 111 (1): 130-133.
2011. Review of Godless Intellectuals? The Intellectual Pursuit of the Sacred, by Alexander Tristan Riley. American Journal of Sociology 115 (5): 1701-1703.
2009. Review of Afro-American Pioneers of Sociology: A Critical History, by Pierre St-Arnaud. Canadian Journal of Sociology (Online).
2008. Review of Understanding Weber, by Sam Whimster. “Re-Reading Max Weber.” Minerva 46: 385-389.
2007. Review of Born in Flames: Termite Dreams, Dialectical Fairy Tales, and Pop Apocalypses, by Howard Hampton. Critical Sociology 33: 981-988.
2007. Review of Early Writings and The Court Society by Norbert Elias. Canadian Journal of Sociology (Online).
2005. Review of Max Weber’s ‘Economy and Society’: A Critical Companion, edited by Charles Camic, Philip S. Gorski, and David M. Trubek. Canadian Journal of Sociology (Online).
2003. Review of Sociology as Political Education, by Karl Mannheim, and Karl Mannheim’s Sociology as Education, by David Kettler and Colin Loader. Canadian Journal of Sociology.
2003. Review of Founders, Classics, Canons: Modern Disputes over the Origins and Appraisal of Sociology’s Heritage, by Peter Baehr. Canadian Journal of Sociology (Online).
2002. Review of The Radical Durkheim (second edition), by Frank Pearce. Canadian Journal of Sociology 27 (2): 277-279.
1999. Review of Norbert Elias: An Introduction, by Robert Van Krieken. Canadian Journal of Sociology (Online).
1998. Review of World in Fragments: Writings on Psychoanalysis, Society, Politics and the Imagination, by Cornelius Castoriadis. American Journal of Sociology 104 (2) 1998: 577-578.
SOCI433A Directed Studies - DIRECTED STUDIES Sections
General reading and/or a research undertaking, with the agreement, and under the supervision, of a Department faculty member selected by the student.
One fine body…
Classical and contemporary social theory; interpretive methods; interdisciplinary approaches to the humanities and social sciences; science, technology and media studies; visual and popular culture.
Most of my undergraduate and graduate courses in social theory are required for Sociology Majors, and for MA and PhD candidates. I change at least a third of the course readings each year and organize classroom discussions around a distinctive theme in order to keep my courses up-to-date with recent scholarship; tp ensure that they reflect my own evolving research interests and expertise; and to speak to changing student interests. My courses are reading- and writing-intensive, and aim to foster critical reflection and independent thought on the perennial sociological problems of class and status, race and gender, and ethnicity and sexuality in everyday and institutional life.
In the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 academic years, I am teaching full-time in the ‘Hero, Anti-Hero’ stream of the Arts One Program. I have also taught courses for the Centre for Cross-Faculty Inquiry, the Foundations Program, as well as the Global Citizenship Term Abroad (GCTA) in Guatemala and the Urban Ethnographic Field School (UEFS), both of which are the focus of current research projects. I supervise a full load of Honours, Masters, and Doctoral students. Please note that I will be on sabbatical in 2016-2017, and on teaching release in 2017-2018.
Ph.D. York, 1992