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Generally Speaking

An Invitation to Concept-Driven Sociology

Eviatar Zerubavel

Publication Date - 27 November 2020

ISBN: 9780197519288

128 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches

In Stock


In this invitation to "concept-driven" sociology, defying the conventional split between "theory" and "methodology" (as well as between "quantitative" and "qualitative" research), Eviatar Zerubavel introduces a yet unarticulated "Simmelian" method of theorizing specifically designed to reveal fundamental, often hidden social patterns. Insisting that it can actually be taught, he examines the theoretico-methodological process (revolving around the epistemic and analytical acts of focusing, generalizing, "exampling," and analogizing) by which concept-driven researchers can distill generic social patterns from the culturally, historically, and domain-specific contexts in which they encounter them empirically. Disregarding conventionally noted substantive variability in order to uncover conventionally disregarded formal commonalities, Generally Speaking draws on cross-cultural, cross-historical, cross-domain, and cross-level analogies in an effort to reveal formal parallels across disparate contexts. Using numerous examples from culturally and historically diverse contexts and a wide range of social domains while also disregarding scale, Zerubavel thus introduces a pronouncedly transcontextual "generic" sociology.


  • Highlights the mental processes underlying the practice of a "concept-driven sociology"
  • Champions a "generic sociology" that is pronouncedly transcontextual (transcultural, transhistorical, transsituational, and translevel) in scope
  • Emphasizes cross-contextual commonality and reveals formal "parallels" across seemingly disparate contexts

About the Author(s)

Eviatar Zerubavel is Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University. His publications include The Elephant in the Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life (Oxford University Press, 2006); Ancestors and Relatives: Genealogy, Identity, and Community (Oxford University Press, 2011. Awarded Honorable mention in the 2012 PROSE Award "Sociology and Social Work" category); Hidden in Plain Sight: The Social Structure of Irrelevance (Oxford University Press, 2015); and Taken for Granted: The Remarkable Power of the Unremarkable (2018).


"Recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty." -- M. Lawler, CHOICE

"A much welcomed methodological capstone to Eviatar Zerubavel's nearly 50 years of concept-driven research creatively illuminating many of the filaments of social cognition and interaction that would have remained less discernible via more traditional methodologies." -David A. Snow, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of California, Irvine

"Drawing from his brilliant half-century opus and a virtuoso talent for recognizing profound patterns in social life, Eviatar Zerubavel gifts us with a novel guide on how to conduct concept-driven research. With great style and captivating examples, Generally Speaking will inspire social scientists but also fascinate general readers." -Viviana A. Zelizer, Lloyd Cotsen '50 Professor of Sociology, Princeton University, and author of Economic Lives: How Culture Shapes the Economy

"Equal parts manifesto and retrospective, Generally Speaking provides a peek into the thought process of one of sociology's most original practitioners. Throughout the book, Zerubavel pushes sociology to think both more boldly and more playfully. Sociology would be a better place if we heeded this call." -Iddo Tavory, Associate Professor of Sociology, New York University

Table of Contents

    Chapter 1 Focusing
    Chapter 2 Generalizing
    Chapter 3 Exampling
    Chapter 4 Analogizing
    Chapter 5 Eureka!