An oxymoron if ever there was one, this term refers to texts (or authors) that have assumed an exalted position in sociology as vital theoretical contributions to, and as fundamental points of reference for, the discipline as a whole. Classics are texts that are accorded a privileged status, which means that ‘contemporary practitioners of the discipline… believe that they can learn as much about their field through understanding this earlier work as they can from the work of their own contemporaries’ (Alexander, 1989, p. 9). But what is the nature of classical eminence and how are classics best understood? Modern discussion of these questions falls under four related approaches.
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