The Anthem Companion to Robert K. Merton

The Anthem Companion to Robert K. Merton

Edited by Charles Crothers & Lorenzo Sabetta
Assisted by Larry Stern

Anthem Companions to Sociology

Robert K. Merton (RKM) was an important figure in the mid-nineteenth development of sociology in terms of social theory, methodology and several substantive areas key to understanding modern societies – the sociologies of science, media, professions and bureaucracy. This book reveals the different components of RKM’s work and how each relates to the other.

Hardback, 256 Pages


September 2022

£120.00, $195.00

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents
  • Links
  • Podcasts

About This Book

Why is Robert K. Merton important? Many treatments of his work focus only on particular components whereas, in fact, his work is far wider and can be summarised for each of his decades of life and work: 1920s (childhood), 1930s (anomie, science, unanticipated consequences), 1940s (housing studies, mass communications, structural-functional analysis, professions, focus groups), 1950s (reference groups), 1960s (ambivalence), and later decades (structural analysis, sociological semantics, cultural sociology). 

Merton particularly contributed to sociology during a period when several specialties were being set up and yet his work spans both general and specialist sociologies. He is recognised as the father of anomie/strain theory; focus groups; sociology of science; role-set theory; analytical sociology; structural-functional analysis; ambivalence studies; and sociological semantics. Many commentaries on sociology lament the ways it has slumped into a wide range of threads with not much of a core holding it together. Merton’s work always endeavoured to keep the multifarious threads of sociology together, and we might usefully learn some of the ways he accomplished this. 

Merton stood at the junction of many other crossroads in sociology and moreover endeavoured to create bridges between these, but more importantly to help launch research programmes along some of these paths. His work links classical and modern sociology; American and European sociology; theory and research; philosophy of social science and applied sociology; pure academic sociology and applied sociology; cognitive and social; social sciences and humanities; and social sciences and science. This book examines and relates to each other. Because Merton’s work spanned so many paths not many sociologists were alert to the overall architecture of his work and perhaps its visibility thereby waned. His viability is relatively less because of an astute writing style. Several of the programmes he helped launch have continued since: for example, media studies, criminology, and science studies.  

Merton had a major effect on the baby boomer generation of sociology who joined the ranks of sociology at a time of great expansion of university positions across many developed countries. While other generations since have been less exposed to his work reading the book will provide many valuable insights.


The Anthem Companions to Sociology offers wide ranging and masterly overviews of the works of major sociologists. The volumes in the series provide authoritative and critical appraisals of key figures in modern social thought. These books, written and edited by leading figures, are essential additional reading on the history of sociology. —Gerard Delanty, Professor of Sociology, University of Sussex, Brighton 


This ambitious series provides an intellectually thoughtful introduction to the featured social theorists and offers a comprehensive assessment of their legacy. Each edited collection synthesizes the many dimensions of the respective theorist’s contributions and sympathetically ponders the various nuances in and the broader societal context for their body of work. The series will be appreciated by seasoned scholars and students alike. —Michele Dillon, Professor of Sociology and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, University of New Hampshire

The orchestration and emergence of the Anthem Companions to Sociology represent a formidable and invaluable achievement. Each companion explores the scope, ingenuity and conceptual subtleties of the works of a theorist indispensable to the sociological project. The editors and contributors for each volume are the very best in their fields, and they guide us towards the richest, most creative seams in the writings of their thinker. The results, strikingly consistent from one volume to the next, brush away the years, reanimate what might have been lost, and bring numerous rays of illumination to the most pressing challenges of the present. —Rob Stones, Professor of Sociology, Western Sydney University, Australia

 The Anthem Companions, those that have appeared already and those that are to come, will give every sociologist a handy and authoritative guide to all the giants of their discipline.
—Stephen Mennell, Professor Emeritus, University College Dublin

Author Information

Charles Crothers is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand. He taught previously at Universities of Auckland, Wellington, and Natal.

Lorenzo Sabetta is a postdoctoral researcher at Sapienza University of Rome and an adjunct professor of sociology at LUISS University.


Anthem Companions to Sociology

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables; Chapter One Introduction: Merton’s Self-Exemplifying Classical Sociological Contributions; Charles Crothers, Lorenzo Sabetta, and Lawrence Stern; Chapter Two Skeptical Faith, Left Politics, and the Making of Young Robert K. Merton; Peter Simonson, Chapter Three Theorist’s Progress: Young Robert K. Merton, 1941–1949; Kenneth Fox, Chapter Four Taking a Seminar with Merton; Richard Swedberg, Chapter Five The Development of Mertonian Status-and-Role Theory; Charles Crothers, Chapter Six Theory as an Option or Theory as a Must? The Bearing of Methodological Choices on the Role of Sociological Theory; Antonio Fasanella and Lorenzo Sabetta, Chapter Seven “Interviews of a Special Type”: Robert K. Merton and Codification of the Focused Interview; Raymond M. Lee, Chapter Eight Science as a Culture; Eric Malczewski, Chapter Nine “Providing Puzzles”: Science as Norms and Values; Michel Dubois, Chapter Ten A Mertonian Breviary for Cultural Sociologists; Christian Fleck, Chapter Eleven The Unpublished Robert K Merton; Harriet Zuckerman, Author Biographies; Index


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