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Before Theory Becomes Theorizing

In his 2015 Annual Lecture for the British Journal of Sociology, economic sociologist Richard Swedberg presented a paper entitled 'Before theory comes theorizing or how to make social science more interesting' in which he seeks to 'revive theory' in the social sciences.

Swedberg confesses to being a 'repressed theorist' and this paper, along with the accompanying books and journal article offers an alternative framework, or pedagogy, for teaching and learning how to theorize.

In this short video interview, Swedberg is asked how theorizing differs from theory and his answer is actually nice and simple - theory is the end product of something, for example Weber's end product is his works entitled 'Economy and Society'. But before theory (or end product) must come theorizing which includes gathering data, thinking it through and exploring possible outcomes and ideas.

For Swedberg, students need to be taught how to theorize before they can even consider coming up with their own theories. He says that giving students Marx to read before teaching them how to theorize is like giving someone the works of Shakspeare and expecting them to become a great English playwrite! Just reading other people's theories does not teach students to become theorists, this takes teaching, experience and technique.

This short video presents an interview with Richard Swedberg where he summarises these ideas and introduces the paper. Alternatively the full lecture can be viewed below:

If you want to find out more about Richard's ideas and pedagogic approach to social theory and theorizing, his lecture paper can be downloaded here and the book titles are below:

 The Art of Social Theory Theorizing in Social Science