Key Concepts

Key Concepts is a series of concise and accessible textbooks exploring core concepts in the social sciences. The books focus on concepts that have a high degree of complexity surrounding them, and they get to the heart of debates about meaning and usage.



Will Atkinson

Class is one of the oldest and most controversial of all concepts in social science. In an accessible and lively manner, this short book takes readers through the key theoretical traditions in class research, the major controversies that have shaken the field and the continuing effects of class difference, class struggle and class inequality.



Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge

Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge provide a much-needed introduction to the field of intersectional knowledge and praxis. Accessibly written and drawing on a plethora of lively examples, the book highlights intersectionality's potential for bringing about social justice oriented change.



Michael Wyness

What is childhood? In this clear and concise book, Michael Wyness offers fresh insights into the cluster of critical and complex ideas that have emerged around the concept of 'childhood', with reference to a range of key contemporary issues including inequality, child abuse, ill-health, child labour, sexualization and identity formation.

Concepts of the Self 3rd Edition

Concepts of the Self 3rd Edition

Anthony Elliott

Concepts of the Self still mesmerizes with its insight, comprehensiveness and critique of debates over the self in the social sciences and humanities. This third edition addresses some of the most recent developments in the field, and offers a powerful challenge to what he describes as ‘the emergence of anti-theories of the self’.



Andrew Jason Cohen

In this engaging and comprehensive introduction to the topic of toleration, Andrew Jason Cohen seeks to answer fundamental questions, such as: What is toleration? What should be tolerated? Why is toleration important? Beginning with some key insights into what we mean by toleration, Cohen goes on to investigate what should be tolerated and why.



Cillian McBride

Everyone cares about recognition: no one wants to be treated with disrespect, insulted, humiliated, or simply ignored. This basic motivation drives the 'politics of recognition'. In this compelling new book Cillian McBride argues that the notion of recognition is not merely confined to such struggles, but has a long history.



Chris Phillipson

Ageing populations represent a key global challenge for twenty-first-century cultural, economic and social life. This book interrogates various understandings of ageing, and provides critical assessment of attitudes and responses to the development of ageing societies, in the context of a variety of historical and sociological debates.



Leslie Paul Thiele

Unlike other approaches to this crucial topic, Thiele argues that sustainability requires innovation and adaptation as much as the conservation of resources. His book will be a valuable resource for students in environmental studies and related areas, as well as general readers keen to grapple with one of the most pressing issues of our times.

Gender 2nd Edition

Harriet Bradley

In this new edition of her popular and highly lauded book, Harriet Bradley provides an introduction to the concept of gender and the different theoretical approaches which have developed within gender studies.

Mental Illness

Mental Illness

Joan Busfield

Mental illness is a highly controversial and contested field, informed by the ideas and research of academics and practitioners working in psychiatry, psychology, pharmacology, sociology, genetics and the neurosciences. This book brings clarity to a complex field, exploring core issues ranging from debates about the way the concept has been developed, transformed and expanded over time, to controversies over its causes.

Health 2nd Edition

Mildred Blaxter

“A great text: revised and updated for students of health, whatever their discipline or background. Changes in science, technology and our understanding of the body are among the many important topics covered. Mildred Blaxter writes in a lucid style and has a command of her material that is second to none. Highly recommended.”

— Mike Bury, Royal Holloway, University of London

Global Governance

Global Governance

Timothy Sinclair

In today’s uncertain world, the concept of global governance has never been more relevant or widely discussed. But what does this elusive idea really mean, and why has it become so important? This pacey introduction sheds new light on the issues involved, offering readers a comprehensive account of competing conceptions of global governance, and evaluating the ways in which rival theories strive to make sense of our complex world.

The City

The City

Deborah Stevenson

This book is a fresh and engaging analysis of the city as a central concept in contemporary social thought. It probes the contested and negotiated ways in which cities are built, understood, used and imagined. Taking a thematic approach and drawing on a range of theoretical, methodological and empirical points of reference, it examines such subjects as urban inequality, public space, creativity, globalization, the night-time economy, suburbia, and memory and emotion.



Steven Peter Vallas

This book provides a critical overview of the myriad literatures on "work," viewed not only as a product of the marketplace but also as a social and political construct. Drawing on theoretical and empirical contributions from sociology, history, economics, and organizational studies, the book brings together perspectives that too often remain balkanized, using each to explore the nature of work today.

Human Rights 2nd Edition

Michael Freeman

Human Rights invites students to think conceptually about one of the most important and influential political concepts of our time. This unique interdisciplinary approach emphasizes the complex ways in which the experiences of the victims of human rights violations are related to legal, philosophical and social-scientific approaches to human rights.

Capitalism: reissued with a new postscript on the financial crisis

Geoffrey Ingham

Global financial markets are in turmoil. In the wake of the US subprime mortgage defaults, some of the largest and oldest financial institutions on Wall Street have found themselves on the verge of collapse, and both the American and British governments have intervened to try to stabilize the financial sector. Why are financial institutions so important for capitalism, and why are so many of these institutions in trouble today?

Nationalism 2nd Edition

Anthony D. Smith

“All who are interested in the study of nationalism are most fortunate to have available this masterly, updated distillation of Anthony Smith's four decades of intensive scholarship on the topic. It is concise and yet treats all of nationalism's key aspects, including its wellsprings and historical evolution. Students are certain to benefit from its clarity and from its critical, sweeping review of the literature.”

Walker Connor, Middlebury College, Vermont


Mary Daly

Welfare is an important concept in the social sciences. It is also challenged and contested not only by alternative concepts but also as a political goal in itself. Using a multi-disciplinary approach, this book takes a fresh look at the continuing relevance of welfare in the context of policy developments and popular attitudes and behaviour.



Jakob Arnoldi

This book gives a comprehensive yet widely accessible introduction to how risk has been analysed in sociology and related social sciences. Drawing on a multiplicity of theoretical approaches it will be invaluable for students and researchers interested in risk in relation to politics, environment, health, media, leisure, economy and culture.



Gill Jones

This accessible book takes a fresh and original approach to the concept of youth, placing changes in the social construction of ‘youth’ within a more general story of the rise and fall of grand theory in social science and re-theorizing the concept of youth in ways which are relevant to young people’s lives today.

Fundamentalism 2nd Edition

Steve Bruce

“Steve Bruce writes always with great lucidity from a clearly stated point of view. His essay on Fundamentalism is no exception. It is well informed and easily accessible and it deserves to be taken seriously even by people who disagree with his view.”

Martin Riesebrodt, University of Chicago


Judith Phillips

“Judith Phillips’s book takes a fresh look at the much debated and researched concept of care. The author not only reviews current thinking on the subject and what has shaped that thinking but also provides some interesting new perspectives.”

Julia Johnson, Open University


Alan Aldridge

“Written with unusual clarity and confidence, this small book packs a big intellectual punch. No one interested in new work in the sociology of consumption should be without it.”

— Charles Lemert, Wesleyan University.

The Market

Alan Aldrige

“Clearly written and very readable, Aldridge's text surveys a range of debates on the rise of the market, its advocates and critics, successes and failures, market ideologies and social values, globalization and the ‘marketization’ of public life.”

— Dr Fran Tonkiss, LSE

The Network Society

Darin Barney

“The social and political implications of the spread of networks have begun to attract increasing scholarly attention. Barney's eloquently written book provides much needed philosophical and political depth to the subject and will be likely to become an essential source in years to come.”

— Ronald J. Deibert, University of Toronto


Colin Barnes and Geof Mercer

In this book, Barnes and Mercer provide a concise and accessible introduction to the concept of disability. Drawing on a burgeoning ‘disability studies' literature from around the world, and from a range of disciplinary perspectives, the authors explore the evolution of this concept and offer a wide-ranging critique of established academic, policy and professional orthodoxies. The book highlights disabled peoples' exclusion and marginalization in key areas of social activity and participation across different historical and cultural contexts, such as family life and reproduction, education, employment, leisure, cultural imagery and politics.

Ethnicity 2nd Edition

Steve Fenton

In this 2nd edition, Steve Fenton updates his concise and accessible introduction to ethnicity, drawing on new published work and recent social and historical changes. Discussing an extended range of theorists and illustrations from around the world, Fenton explores and clarifies the core meanings and the shifting ground of this contested concept.


Anthony Payne and Nicola Phillips

Just about everyone is 'for' development as an assumed 'good', yet few seem to have a concrete idea of what the term actually entails. Development offers a comprehensive and wide-ranging analysis of the various ways in which this important concept has been used in social and political analysis over the past 200 years.


Mónica Brito Vieira and David Runciman

Representation is the foundational idea in almost all areas of political life. This introductory text examines the historical roots of representation from ancient Rome to the present day, analysing the different varieties of representation and how they can help us think creatively about current and future challenges facing the world.


Robert Jackson

“Sovereignty is the great survivor amongst modern political concepts. Its death has often been foretold. Yet it persists. In this penetrating and elegantly written book Robert Jackson explains why. It will be indispensable reading for all students of politics and international relations.”

— James Mayall, Centre of International Studies, Cambridge


Katrin Flikschuh

This is an engaging and accessible introduction to divergent conceptions of freedom in contemporary liberal political philosophy. It is the ideal introduction to the thought of Isaiah Berlin, Gerald MacCallum, Robert Nozick, Hillel Steiner, Ronald Dworkin, and Joseph Raz and to the concept of freedom more generally.

The People

Margaret Canovan

This groundbreaking study sets out to clarify one of the most influential but least studied of all political concepts, charting the conflicting meanings of ‘the people’ and the concept's development from the ancient populus Romanus to the present day.


Alejandro Colás

“In this excellent book, Alejandro Colás draws together a wide range of theoretical perspectives and combines them with rich historical detail to illustrate his argument. That he does so in a concise, readable and yet rigorous way is something to be applauded. In short, Empire is a highly impressive achievement.”

— Ray Kiely, SOAS, University of London


Russell Hardin

In this wide-ranging book, Russell Hardin sets out to dispel the myths surrounding the concept of trust in contemporary society and politics. He examines the growing literature on trust to analyze public concerns about declining levels of trust, both in our fellow citizens and in our governments and their officials.


Ruth Lister

“This thought-provoking analysis is informed by its understanding of both the experience and meaning of poverty. It deserves to be made compulsory reading for all those engaged in making, carrying out or studying policies that affect the lives of people in poverty in any way.”

— Adrian Sinfield, University of Edinburgh


Anne Mette Kjær

Governance is an easy-to read introduction to an increasingly important concept in political science. It provides a clear overview of how the concept has been used in the sub-fields of public administration and public policy, international relations, European studies, and comparative politics.

Global Justice

Jon Mandle

“This is a clear and promising attempt to explain and develop some deeply held and widely shared intuitions about justice.”

— Thomas Pogge, Australian National University

Minority Rights

Jennifer Jackson Preece

“This is an important book. At a time when western societies are becoming increasingly polarised between those who urge the virtues of multiculturalism and those who fear that our values are being undermined and our security threatened by the presence of minorities, we badly need a careful and clear-headed appraisal of minority rights and the dilemmas that they pose. Jennifer Jackson-Preece is to be congratulated providing us with just such an account.”

— James Mayall, University of Cambridge


John Scott

“Scott provides a well-documented and admirably succinct analysis of social power in all its diverse forms and their embodiment in both hierarchical social institutions and interpersonal relations.”

— Dennis Wrong, Emeritus Professor, New York University


Stuart White

This highly accessible book provides an engaging introduction to the concept of equality and to the debates, historical and contemporary, that surround it. It explains and critically considers how the demand for equality arises in different spheres. The book will be of interest to students and researchers in philosophy and the social sciences and anyone interested in the values that animate democratic political life.

Available titles

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  1. Barbara Adam, Time
  2. Alan Aldridge, Consumption
  3. Alan Aldridge, The Market
  4. Jakob Arnoldi, Risk
  5. Will Atkinson, Class
  6. Colin Barnes and Geof Mercer, Disability
  7. Darin Barney, Network Society
  8. Mildred Blaxter, Health 2nd edition
  9. Harriet Bradley, Gender 2nd edition
  10. Harry Brighouse, Justice
  11. Mónica Brito Vieira and David Runciman, Representation
  12. Steve Bruce, Fundamentalism 2nd Edition
  13. Busfield, Mental Illness
  14. Margaret Canovan, The People
  15. Andrew Jason Cohen, Toleration
  16. Alejandro Colás, Empire
  17. Mary Daly, Welfare
  18. Anthony Elliott, Concepts of the Self 3rd Edition
  19. Steve Fenton, Ethnicity 2nd edition
  20. Katrin Flikschuh, Freedom
  21. Michael Freeman, Human Rights 2nd Edition
  22. Russell Hardin, Trust
  23. Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge, Intersectionality
  24. Geoffrey Ingham, Capitalism
  25. Fred Inglis, Culture
  26. Robert Jackson, Sovereignty
  27. Jennifer Jackson Preece, Minority Rights
  28. Gill Jones, Youth
  29. Paul Kelly, Liberalism
  30. Cillian McBride, Recognition
  31. Anne Mette Kjær, Governance
  32. Ruth Lister, Poverty
  33. Jon Mandle, Global Justice
  34. Anthony Payne and Nicola Phillips, Development
  35. Judith Phillips, Care
  36. Chris Phillipson, Ageing
  37. Michael Saward, Democracy
  38. John Scott, Power
  39. Timothy Sinclair, Global Governance
  40. Anthony D. Smith, Nationalism 2nd Edition
  41. Deborah Stevenson, The City
  42. Leslie Paul Thiele, Sustainability
  43. Stuart White, Equality
  44. Steven Vallas , Work
  45. Michael Wyness , Childhood
  1. Capitalism, Geoffrey Ingham
  2. Care, Judith Phillips
  3. Ageing, Chris Phillipson
  4. Concepts of the Self 2nd Edition, Anthony Elliott
  5. Consumption, Alan Aldridge
  6. Culture, Fred Inglis
  7. Democracy, Michael Saward
  8. Development, Anthony Payne and Nicola Phillips
  9. Disability, Colin Barnes and Geof Mercer
  10. Empire, Alejandro Colás
  11. Welfare, Mary Daly
  12. Equality, Stuart White
  13. Ethnicity 2nd Edition, Steve Fenton
  14. Freedom, Katrin Flikschuh
  15. Fundamentalism 2nd Edition, Steve Bruce
  16. Gender 2nd Edition, Harriet Bradley
  17. Global Justice, Jon Mandle
  18. Global Governance, Timothy Sinclair
  19. Governance, Anne Mette Kjær
  20. Health 2nd Edition, Mildred Blaxter
  21. Human Rights, Michael Freeman
  22. Justice, Harry Brighouse
  23. Representation, Mónica Brito Vieira and David Runciman
  24. Liberalism, Paul Kelly
  25. Recognition, Cillian McBride
  26. The Market, Alan Aldridge
  27. Mental Ilness, Joan Busfield
  28. Minority Rights, Jennifer Jackson Preece
  29. Nationalism, Anthony D. Smith
  30. Network Society, Darin Barney
  31. The City, Deborah Stevenson
  32. Sustainability, Leslie Paul Thiele
  33. The People, Margaret Canovan
  34. Toleration, Andrew Jason Cohen
  35. Poverty, Ruth Lister
  36. Power, John Scott
  37. Risk, Jakob Arnold
  38. Work, Steven Vallas
  39. Childhood, Michael Wyness
  40. Youth, Gill Jones