Social theory underpins research in sociology and cognate disciplines and is extremely wide ranging in its scope. It is also an activity in its own right – not just the basis for further inquiry but an exploration of our relation to the world and each other. It is a means to explore the bounds of human possibility and social imagination. It is also a valuable resource for our attendance to urgent problems of social structure and lived experience. In a general sense, social theory refers to ideas, arguments and explanatory speculations about how and why human societies or elements within them, are formed, change, develop over time and disappear. In the cluster we work both with sociological theory, in the tradition of reflection from the classical sociologists to contemporary, and with concepts and debates from philosophy, humanities and other social sciences, such as anthropology, political science, economics, cultural and media studies, and gender studies.
Social theory is further crucially informed by normative concerns and debates about desirable ends or values of social life – about how social life ideally “ought to be” – which overlaps with fields of moral, political, and legal philosophy. Staff and postgraduates in the cluster have many areas of interest, including classical and contemporary social and cultural theory; social epistemology; theories of culture, class, taste and aesthetics; economic life, work, and employment; emotions and the body; gender, sexuality, and identity; globalization, inequality and protest movements; race, ethnicity, citizenship, and nationalism; violence, war, militarism and humanitarianism.