Outstanding Sociologists (10 Phenomenal Careers)

Direct Knowlege Contributor Chelsea Turner
  • By Chelsea Turner, M.A. in Communication Studies
  • Chelsea Turner is a professional college counselor. She is a technical writer with expertise in the humanities with an emphasis in communication studies. Her array of experience in marketing, teaching, and counseling provided her with a broad career scope. Chelsea Turner has a Bachelor’s of Arts in English and a Master’s of Arts in Communication Studies.

Sociology, a part of the social sciences, is the study of humans and their societies. As such an all-encompassing field, it’s hard to imagine that anything insignificant would come forth. In this ever-growing field, there are outstanding sociologists working to further our understanding of society, its development, structures, and functions. Below, a few researchers and professors in the field who are truly making great strides in the field are highlighted. Through their work, we can all learn something about our own social environments.

Mark Granovetter, Ph.D. — Economic and Political Sociology

Mark Granovetter is a notable sociologist
Mark Granovetter, Ph.D.

Dr. Mark Granovetter is a notable sociologist and professor at Stanford University. He currently holds the Joan Butler Ford Professorship in the School of Humanities and Sciences. Additionally, he is a renowned author with research interests in economic and political sociology and social inequality. His work as an outstanding sociologist may even have him on track to win a Nobel Prize.

Granovetter began his education at Princeton University. There, he earned a bachelor of arts (B.A.) in modern history. Continuing his Ivy League legacy, he moved on to Harvard University to complete his philosophical doctorate (Ph.D.) in sociology. Since then, he has published three books, numerous journal articles, and several book chapters.

His research goal is to understand how human networks and institutions interact and shape one another. Moreover, he aims to understand the social foundations of economies. He is most known for research and development of four key ideas: the strength of weak ties, embeddedness, tipping points, and security influence.

Granovetter’s strength of weak ties idea is of particular interest to his peers. He argues that weak ties, as opposed to strong ones, are actually more likely to be of help society. His paper, “The Strength of Weak Ties” (1973), has been cited over 24,000 times, highlighting its significance in the field.  Beyond this piece, his multitude of works is cited frequently within sociology circles for nearly five decades.

In his most recent book, Society and Economy: Framework and Principles (2017), Granovetter examines corporate governance, corruption, and the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley. His ideas have greatly influenced the field of outstanding sociology and continue to produce impactful research today. For this work, Granovetter is a 2018 Clarivate Citation Laureate and addition to their list of predicted Nobel Prize winners.

Outstanding Sociologist: Read about Mark Granovetter.

Manuel Castells, Ph.D. — Globalization Studies

Manuel Castells is an outstanding sociologist
Manuel Castells, Ph.D.

Dr. Manuel Castells teaches at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He is a university professor in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Additionally, Castells is the Wallis Annenberg Chair in Communication Technology and Society. His work as an outstanding sociologist focuses on globalization, international relations, new media and technology influence, and public policy.

A native of Spain, Castells became active in the anti-Franco movement, which forced him to flee France. Before he fled, he studied law and economics at the University of Barcelona. He then continued to his studies at the University of Paris through his Ph.D. He is truly a global sociologist, from his upbringing, to his current works.

His research focuses on the network society and understanding how the Age of Information can be a powerful tool for the mind. Castells is the author of 26 academic books and 100 articles in various academic journals. Furthermore, he is a co-author of another 23 books. His works have earned him much praise from around the world.

As a pro-bono advisor to many governments, including those of Chile, Portugal, and Spain, he has been knighted. In his second home nation, France, he was knighted to the Order of Arts and Letters for his contributions. He is also often a consultant to international committees, including the United Nations Development Program and the World Bank.

Castells is also the recipient of many awards. He has the Balzan Prize, the Holberg International Memorial Prize, and the Kevin Lynch Award of Urban Design from MIT, among many others.

Outstanding Sociologist: Read about Manuel Castells.

Göran Therborn, Ph.D. — Sociology of Class

Göran Therborn is a professor emeritus of sociology at Cambridge
Göran Therborn, Ph.D.

Dr. Göran Therborn is a Cambridge University Professor Emeritus of Sociology. Additionally, he is an Affiliated Professor of Sociology at Linnaeus University, Sweden. His research is extensive on the intersection between the class structure of society and the function of the state apparatus. With an emphasis on the formation of ideology, Therborn’s work has progressed the future of the Marxist tradition.

He earned his Ph.D. at Lund University in Sweden, and his theories are highly influenced by Marx. Since beginning his academic journey, Therborn has traveled the world to develop and prove his theories. Much of his research focuses on global issues from various perspectives. He discusses issues of inequality, middle-class formations, and radical social thought, to name a few areas of interest. He is the author of more than 140 including book chapters, articles, working papers, online pages, and books. Many of these publications are translated into more than 20 languages. As such, he has a global presence.

Prior to his most recent tenure at Cambridge, Therborn worked at several other universities in Sweden and the Netherlands. Of note, he was Head of the Sociology Department at Cambridge until his retirement in 2010.  As a Professor Emeritus, he does still teach a module each semester.

He is also the recipient of several awards, including 2010 Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences in the UK. Additionally, he holds Doctor Honoris Causa from five international universities, including Linnaeus University, Sweden. Furthermore, he was Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Mannheim-based European Network of Excellence on European Governance. Therborn also appears in several lists on outstanding sociologists: Who’s Who 2007; The Contemporary Who’s Who 2003, One Thousand Great Scientists, Dictionary of Eminent Social Scientists, and Swedish National Encyclopedia.

Outstanding Sociologist: Read about Göran Therborn.

Bob Jessop, Ph.D. — “Time Sovereignty” and Governance

Bob Jessop coined the term time sovereignty
Bob Jessop, Ph.D.

Dr. Bob Jessop is a Distinguished Professor at Lancaster University in Lancashire, England. Of note, he coined the term “time sovereignty,” the notion that governments are entitled to time to make decisions. His research often focuses on this as an endangered concept in contemporary settings. Furthermore, this outstanding sociologist’s work has a strong impact on those who focus their studies on governance.

Jessop received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Exeter and his Ph.D. from St. John’s College at Cambridge. His work treats the state as a social relation with differential strategic effects rather than as an entity. Much of his research utilizes the strategic-relational approach, considered an extension of Marx’s concept of capital. His current curriculum for graduate students focuses on capitalism and the mode of crisis under which it operates.

His research in the field includes about 60 items as of 2019. He is the author or co-author of many peer-reviewed articles and offers reviews of others’ work in capitalism, in particular. Beyond these works, he is the author of a few books. His most recent title, Political Economy and Global Capitalism: The 21st Century, Present and Future (2007), consists of a collection of work by authors exploring the global political economy. His research is sure to be largely cited in years to come.

In addition to his publications, Jessop is the recipient of several awards. These include the Lancaster University Grant, the British Academy BARDA Award, the EAEPE Gunnar Myrdal Prize. He is also a member of the Cultural Political Economy Research Centre (CPERC) within Lancaster University’s Departments of Sociology and Politics, Philosophy, and Religion.

Outstanding Sociologist: Read about Bob Jessop.

Michael Mann, Ph.D. — Comparative and Historical Sociology

Michael Mann is an outstanding sociologist
Michael Mann, Ph.D.

Dr. Michael Mann is a Distinguished Research Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. A native of England, his works have a unique perspective of someone with dual citizenship in the United Kingdom and the United States. His most modern perspectives focus on American imperialism from two perspectives, comparative and historical sociology.

This outstanding sociologist earned both his B.A. and Ph.D. from Oxford University. He also holds three Honorary Doctorate of Letters degrees from international universities. Though his research is extensive, he is best known for his coined Ideological, Economic, Military, and Political (IEMP) model of social power. Mann first produced the theoretical construct in his publication of “The Autonomous Power of the State: Its Origins, Mechanisms, and Results” (1984) in the European Journal of Sociology. His four-volume set, The Sources of Social Power (1986, 1993, 2012, 2013), use this model in assessing power, nation-states, classes, globalization, and revolution.

Additionally, Mann is publicly known for disapproving of the United States’ “War on Terror” due to neo-imperialistic nature. His book, Incoherent Empire (2003), provides his insights and opinions founded in contemporary and historical sociological approaches on the matter. His goal through this research is to gain a deeper sociological understating of the effect of power in human societies from prehistoric times to present times.

Aside from his publications, Mann has served as a member of the Advisory Editors Council of the Social Evolution & History journal. He was also chosen to be a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy in 2015. 

Outstanding Sociologist: Read about Michael Mann.

Richard Sennett, Ph.D. — Cultural Studies

Richard Sennett contributes to the field of cultural studies
Richard Sennett, Ph.D.

Dr. Richard Sennett is a professor of sociology at the London School of Economics and a Senior Fellow of the Center on Capitalism and Society at Columbia University.  His research focuses primarily on the effect of living conditions and places on individuals’ work. While his body of work is classified within cultural studies, his emphasis is on individual interpretations of their personal experiences as related to societal obstacles. As an outstanding sociologist, he is particularly interested in modern social issues.

After a hand injury prevented him from pursuing a career as a cellist while studying at The Julliard School of Music in New York, he transitioned to focus on academic studies. Sennet received his B.A. from the University of Chicago and earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University. His studies included history and philosophy in addition to sociology.

Beyond his teaching, Sennet is a founder of several entities. He founded and directed the New York Institute of the Humanities at New York University. He also chaired a United Nations commission on urban development and design. Furthermore, he once acted as President of the American Council on Work, chaired the London School of Economics Cities Programme, and served as Chair of the Jury of the Venice Biennale.

Sennet is the author of a broad range of texts, including sociology books, essays in the field, and fiction books. Interestingly, his fictional works take root in historical eras and address sociological interests that are period-relevant.  

Other Prizes

A recipient of the Hegel Prize and the Spinoza Prize, among others, Sennet is a central figure in modern sociology. Of note, he holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Cambridge and is a recipient of the Centennial Medal from Harvard University. With city populations growing and changing, his research is considered instrumental across several disciplines. 

Outstanding Sociologist: Read about Richard Sennett.

Erik Olin Wright, Ph.D. — Management Studies

Erik Olin Wright studies organizational sociology
Erik Olin Wright, Ph.D.

Dr. Erik Olin Wright is a Marxist sociologist who argues that experts, managers of experts, and executive managers tend to be closer to the interests of their bosses than to the interests of their fellow workers. He conducts his research concurrently with his time teaching. Wright is a Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also heads the Havens-Wright Center for Social Justice at the university. Furthermore, he was the 103rd American Sociological Association (ASA) President in 2012.

He earned two bachelor’s degrees from Harvard University and Balliol College at Oxford University, and he earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. The Vietnam War and Civil Rights Movement significantly influenced his theories and perspectives while growing up and moving through his education. As such, he developed into Marxian theory.

Wright distinguishes himself from classic Marxists by breaking down the working class into subgroups. His work considers diversely held power and varying degrees of class consciousness within the working class and as compared to other social classes.

An author of many books, Wright’s more recent work focuses on understanding socialist alternatives. He has more than 120 research items and has been cited more than 6,000 times since he began publishing. His collaborative pieces feature other outstanding researchers from various fields.

As an outstanding sociologist, he seeks to update Marxian views in academia. Through his work, he intends to explain and predict people’s material interests, experiences, living conditions, incomes, and the likelihood of engaging in collective action.

Outstanding Sociologist: Read about Erik Olin Wright.

Loïc Wacquant, Ph.D. — Sociology of Inequality

Loïc Wacquant studies urbanization, inequality, ghettoization, and penal systems
Loïc Wacquant, Ph.D.

Dr. Loïc Wacquant is a sociology professor at the University of California, Berkeley. His sociological interests include incarnation, the role of the penal state, comparative urban inequality and marginality, the politics of reason, and studies on extreme social systems. He is also a research associate in Boalt Law School’s Insitute for Legal Research as an affiliate with several other programs focused on critical theories reflecting his own expertise. Moreover, having French roots, he is a researcher for the Centre de Européen de Sociologie et de Science Politique in Paris. 

Though he was raised in France, he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He also studied at the University of Montpellier in Paris for undergraduate coursework and on New Caledonia, an island in the south Pacific, for graduate research on industrial economics.  

His research spans several topics, including urbanization, inequality, ghettoization, and penal systems. One of his findings on the development of punishment is that penal systems form an institution aimed at poor and stigmatized neighborhoods. A majority of his research has taken place in low-income neighborhoods in South Chicago, the Paris Banlieue, and jails across the United States and Brazil.

Wacquant has published over 100 articles in the field of sociology. He co-founded the journal Ethnography and was a collaborator on Le Monde Diplomatique. Additionally, he is the author of several books. He continues researching and expanding his work into comparative-historical sociological studies. Moreover, he continues to fight for social justice internationally through these efforts.

Given the increasing number of prisoners in the US alone, Wacquant’s research paves the way on understanding how institutionalized poverty works. With him in our line of outstanding sociologists, we hope to see society combat the damage he identifies through his investigations.

Outstanding Sociologist: Read about Loïc Wacquant.

Robert Putnam, Ph.D. — Two-Level Game Theory

Robert Putnam is an outstanding sociologist
Robert Putnam, Ph.D.

Dr. Robert Putnam is most famous for his development of two-level game theory, which asserts that international agreements will be successful only if they result in domestic benefits as well. Though he retired from his post as a professor at Harvard University in 2018, he still serves as the Malkin Research Professor of Public Policy. As an outstanding sociologist, his expertise is in poverty, inequality, and opportunity, the role cities and communities play in those entities, and social policy impacting these elements.

Putnam received his bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. A truly impressive student, he achieved a Fullbright Fellowship that took him to Oxford University for post-baccalaureate studies. He then went on to obtain both his master’s and doctoral degrees from Yale University. 

The author of fifteen books, so far, and numerous other research publications, he is known for his stance on a collapsing US. In his, perhaps, most controversial piece, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (2000), he argues that the United States has undergone a collapse in civic, social, and political life since the 1960s that has led to serious negative consequences. Many of his works focus on the issues of inequality and therefore lack of opportunity in the United States. 


Putnam is also affiliated with several organizations. He is part of Phi Beta Kappa, the International Institute of Strategic Studies, and the National Academy of Sciences, among others. His past accomplishments include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Corresponding Fellowship at the British Academy, and membership with the Trilateral Commission. He also holds honorary degrees from Stockholm University in Sweden and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Putnam is also a recipient of the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science. Notably, President Barack Obama awarded Putnam the National Humanities Medal in 2013.

Outstanding Sociologist: Read about Robert Putnam.

Paul DiMaggio, Ph.D. — Sociology of Technology

Paul DiMaggio is a professor emeritus of sociology at Princeton
Paul DiMaggio, Ph.D.

Dr. Paul DiMaggio is a sociology professor at New York University. He also holds emeritus status at Princeton University as the A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs. His work as an outstanding sociologist finds relevance in the era of technology, noting the global impact it has on diverse social groups.

He earned his B.A. from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and his Ph.D. from Harvard University. His research interests encompass economics, organizational sociology, information technology, and cultural studies.

As an author of numerous works, including peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and books, he is a prominent figure in the field. Much of his focus is on “cultural capital.” DiMaggio asserts that comfortable relationships between businesses and stakeholders drive the former entity to be less creative and innovative as they appeal more to the appearance of legitimacy for the benefit of the latter. As such, he takes what was seemingly social to an interpersonal level that resonates as impersonal. He further studies impersonal bonds between individuals due to the rise of technology, particularly the internet. These modern studies emphasize the changing face of sociological studies as societies move from traditional structures into a post-modern era.

Prior to his current tenure, DiMaggio served as Graduate Director and Chair in the Sociology Department at Princeton, Co-Director of the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies at Princeton, and Director of the Program on Non-Profit Organizations at Yale. He was also a visiting fellow at the Russel Sage Foundation and held a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. Additionally, he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Political and Social Science. DiMaggio is also a recipient of the Princeton University Graduate Mentoring Prize.

Outstanding Sociologist: Read about Paul DiMaggio.

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