To the best of our knowledge, this is the first Encyclopedia
of Social Theory. There are, of course, encyclopedias of the
social sciences (among others) that have addressed some of
the topics assembled here. However, because their treatment
of social theory has been only part of a much broader set of
topics, these other sets of volumes have been unable to provide
the focus and depth required to define the field of social
theory in a reasonably complete (of course, inevitably there
are topics that are not covered) and systematic fashion.
The purpose of an encyclopedia is to summarize and
codify knowledge in a given field. This is in contrast to a
handbook, which offers essays on cutting-edge research in
a field, or a dictionary, which provides short, to-the-point
definitions of key concepts in a field (Sica 2001). Certainly,
an encyclopedia also does some of the things that one finds
in handbooks and dictionaries. Thus, the Encyclopedia of
Social Theory offers handbook-like (albeit briefer) entries
on cutting-edge topics, such as globalization, consumption,
complexity theory, and actor-network theory, and it provides
state-of-the-art interpretations of long-established
theories. Also, like a dictionary, the entries in this encyclopedia
provide basic introductions to key ideas, concepts,
schools, and figures in social theory. However, the entries
tend to be far longer and offer much more depth than those
found in dictionaries.

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