Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-19, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 23 January, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2019.


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New sociology

core definition

The New Sociology was a term applied to an approach to sociology in the United States that derived, in the main, from the social criticism of C. Wright Mills.

explanatory context

The basic characteristics of the New Sociology are as follows:

1. the social scientist should accommodate history

2. the social scientist should adopt an holistic approach

3. there should be an attempt to relate biographical detail to the wider sweep of history

4. the social scientist should be concerned with substantive social issues

5. the social scientist should be conceptually imaginative

6. thus the social scientist should not deal in idealised uncritical social constructs, that is, should not reify 'bourgeois' social values, norms or social structures.

7. consequently the approach is a critical one.


This view of the new sociology is encapsulated in C. Wright Mills' Sociological Imagination. New Sociology is usually characterised as radical sociology.


Some commentators see it as a form of neo-Marxism, others as peudo-Marxism, and others deny its Marxist credentials altogether. As an approach it adopts some elements of (the various) Marxist approaches, but tends to less clearly identify with revolutionary praxis, avoid explicit dialectical analysis, and is ambiguous about class analysis. Marx is only one of its points of reference, Veblen, Weber and other classical sociologists are also identified as inspirational.


In essence, the approach developed as a reaction to the sterility of structural functionalism in the 1950s and argued for a return to the inventive and broader perspective on sociology of the 'founding fathers'.


analytical review

associated issues


related areas

See also

C. Wright Mills

social criticism

Researching the Real World Section

Critical Social Research Section 1.5

Critical Social Research Section 2.4 for an analysis of Mill's Power Elite


copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2019


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