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Randall Collins

Randall Collins
Born Randall Collins
United States
Residence Pennsylvania
School University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, Harvard College

Randall Collins, Ph.D. (born 1941, Knoxville, Tennessee) is an American sociologist who is a Sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania as well as a member of the Advisory Editors Council of the Social Evolution & History journal. He is a leading contemporary social theorist whose areas of expertise include the macro-historical sociology of political and economic change; micro-sociology, including face-to-face interaction; and the sociology of intellectuals and social conflict.[1] He is considered to be one of the leading non-Marxist conflict theorists in the United States.[2]


  • Early life 1
  • Research 2
  • Fiction writing 3
  • Publications 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Collins spent a good deal of his early years in Europe where his father was part of the military intelligence during WWII and also a member of the state department. Collins attended a New England prep school, afterward studying at Harvard and University of California Berkeley, where he encountered the work of Herbert Blumer and Erving Goffman who were both professors at Berkeley at the time. He completed his Ph.D. in 1969 and has taught at numerous universities such as University of Virginia, the Universities of California Riverside and San Diego. He is a visiting professor at Chicago, Harvard, and Cambridge, as well as various schools in Europe, Japan and China. He currently teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.


Collins is a social scientist who views theory as essential to understanding the world. He says "The essence of science is precisely theory...a generalized and coherent body of ideas, which explain the range of variations in the empirical world in terms of general principles". This is Collins' way of examining the social world, emphasizing the role and interaction of larger social structures.[3]

Collins argues sex, smoking, and social stratification and much else in our social lives are driven by a common force: interaction rituals. Interaction Ritual Chains is a major work of sociological theory that attempts to develop a "radical microsociology." It proposes that successful rituals create symbols of group membership and pump up individuals with emotional energy, while failed rituals drain emotional energy. Each person flows from situation to situation, drawn to those interactions where their cultural capital gives them the best emotional energy payoff. Thinking, too, can be explained by the internalization of conversations within the flow of situations; individual selves are thoroughly and continually social, constructed from the outside in.

Collins has also argued that violent confrontation goes against human physiological hardwiring. It is the exception, not the rule—regardless of the underlying conditions or motivations. This is in opposition to explanations by social scientists that violence is easy under certain conditions, like poverty, racial or ideological hatreds, or family pathologies.

Fiction writing

Early in his academic career, Collins left academia on several occasions to write fiction. One of his novels is The Case of the Philosopher's Ring, featuring Sherlock Holmes.[4]


  • 2008. Violence. A micro-sociological Theory. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-13313-1
  • 2004. Interaction Ritual Chains. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-12389-6
  • 2004. "Rituals of solidarity and security, and processes of mass hysteria, in the wake of terrorist attack." Sociological Theory 21
  • 2003. "A Network-location Theory of Culture." Sociological Theory 21: 69–73.
  • 2003. "Fuller, Kuhn, and the Emergent Attention Space of Reflexive Studies of Science." Social Epistemology 17: 145–150.
  • 2003. "Sociology and Philosophy." in Craig Calhoun, Chris Rojek, and Bryan Turner (eds.) International Handbook of Sociology. London: Sage.
  • 2003. "The Durkheimian Movement in France and in World Sociology." in Jeffrey Alexander and Phil Smith (eds.) The Cambridge Companion to Durkheim. Cambridge University Press.
  • 2003. "Mann's Transformation of the Classical Sociological Traditions." In John A. Hall and Ralph Schroeder (eds.), An Anatomy of Power: The Social Theory of Michael Mann. Cambridge University Press.
  • 2002. "Introduction." with Mauro Guillen, Paula England, Marshall Meyer. in The New Economic Sociology: Developments in an Emerging Field. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
  • 2002. "On the Acrimoniousness of Intellectual Disputes". Common Knowledge 8: 47–70.
  • 2002. "Geopolitics in an Era of Internationalism." Social Evolution and History Journal. Vol. 1, pp. 118–139.
  • 2002. "Conflict Theory and Interaction Ritual: the Microfoundations of Conflict Theory." (with Jörg Rössel) In Jonathan Turner (ed.), Handbook of Sociological Theories. New York: Plenum Publishers.
  • 2002. "Credential Inflation and the Future of Universities." In Steve Brint (ed.), The Future of the City of Intellect. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Excerpted in Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 2002.
  • 2002. "Black's Contributions to a General Theory of Conflict." [review essay] Contemporary Sociology 31: 655–58.
  • 2000. "Comparative and historical patterns of education." In Maureen T. Hallinan (ed.), Handbook of the Sociology of Education. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 213–239.
  • 2000. "Situational Stratification: A Micro-macro Theory of Inequality." Sociological Theory 18
  • 1999. Macro-History: Essays in Sociology of the Long Run. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • 1998. The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University. ISBN 0-674-00187-7 (Russian edition 2002. Italian, Chinese, and Spanish editions forthcoming. Esmail Yazdanpour is now translating it into Persian.)
  • 1998. "Democratization in World-Historical Perspective." In Ralph Schroeder Weberian Political Sociology: Democracy, Nationalism and Modernization. London: Macmillan.
  • 1985–1994. Four Sociological Traditions. Oxford University Press, Inc. ISBN 0-19-508208-7.
  • 1979. The Credential Society: An Historical Sociology of Education and Stratification. New York : Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-181360-6.
  • 1975. Conflict Sociology: Toward an Explanatory Science. New York: Academic.


  1. ^ Collins, Randall. "UPenn Almanac, Vol. 51". Retrieved April 12, 2005. 
  2. ^ Hurn, Christopher J. The Limits and Possibilities of Schooling.
  3. ^ Allan, Kenneth (2006). Contemporary Social & Sociological Theory.  
  4. ^ [1]

External links

  • Randall Collins' blog The Sociological Eye
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