Southern Theory Book Summary - Southern Theory Book explained in key points
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Southern Theory summary

Raewyn Connell

The Global Dynamics of Knowledge in Social Science

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Brief summary

'Southern Theory' by Raewyn Connell examines the global dominance of 'Western' social theory and argues for the importance of non-Western perspectives in understanding the world.

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    Southern Theory
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    Sociology was created in the late nineteenth century at the height of Western imperialism.

    Any sociology major will tell you that sociology as a discipline began with three thinkers: Max Weber, Karl Marx and Émile Durkheim. But this isn’t the whole story. What often goes unmentioned is that the social sciences emerged during a very specific period in history.

    In the decades leading up to World War One, the empires of European countries and the US grew dramatically. The German, British and French empires expanded into Africa and Asia while the United States conquered parts of the American west and overseas territories such as Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.

    At this time, colonizers justified their actions by claiming they were modernizing and civilizing so-called “primitive” peoples. Asserting their position of white superiority, colonizers took it upon themselves to spread progress, as they believed other societies were inferior and unable to develop independently.

    It was in this period that sociology was created in order for the empires to study the people they had colonized. Not only were colonizers claiming “new” land by violently obliterating resistance, but they also began observing the culture of the people there. For example, between 1898 and 1913 in the sociological journal L’Année Sociologique, over two-thirds of the reviews were about colonized territories. Durkheim, who founded the journal, was therefore only able to write about Algeria’s Kabyle people because the French had conquered the country not long before.

    Later in the early twentieth century, sociology was reinvented in American universities and became established as an academic discipline. It was only then that the works of Weber, Marx and Durkheim were prescribed for all sociologists. The new discipline required a curriculum, so the first sociology professors narrowed it down to these three academics. Consequently, any wider sociological perspectives were ignored and the violent and exploitative origin of sociology was covered up.

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    What is Southern Theory about?

    In Southern Theory (2007), sociologist Raewyn Connell investigates the emergence of the social sciences in the context of Western imperialism. She explains how sociological knowledge and theory was and is primarily produced from the perspective of the colonizers, and not the colonized.

    Southern Theory Review

    Southern Theory (2007) by Raewyn Connell explores the dominance of sociology from the Global North and provides a refreshing perspective on social theory from the Global South. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Offers a courageous critique of the traditional Western-centric approach to social theory, challenging readers to broaden their understanding and perspectives.
    • Examines the complex relationship between power, knowledge, and social change in the context of the Global South, shedding light on previously marginalized voices.
    • Engages readers with its powerful analysis of the influence of colonialism, globalization, and post-colonialism, making the book both thought-provoking and enlightening.

    Best quote from Southern Theory

    Sociology was formed within the culture of imperialism, and embodied an intellectual response to the colonised world.

    —Raewyn Connell
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    Who should read Southern Theory?

    • Sociology and humanities students
    • Anyone interested in globalization and postcolonialism
    • People interested in international politics

    About the Author

    Raewyn Connell has served as an advisor on UN initiatives and was a founding professor of sociology at Macquarie University, Australia. Currently Professor Emeritus at the University of Sydney, she is a renowned scholar in Southern theory, as well as in gender and masculinity studies. The Australian Sociological Association named the biennial Raewyn Connell Prize after her in 2010.

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    Southern Theory FAQs 

    What is the main message of Southern Theory?

    The main message of Southern Theory is that knowledge and theories should be inclusive and representative of the global South.

    How long does it take to read Southern Theory?

    The reading time for Southern Theory varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Southern Theory a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Southern Theory is a thought-provoking book that offers a fresh perspective on social theory. It is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of Southern Theory?

    Raewyn Connell is the author of Southern Theory.

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