Star sociologists

This book aims to overcome sociology’s preoccupation with individual authors by exploring a larger social phenomenon that occurs in all academic disciplines but has been paid little attention: the prestige elite. Members of this elite attain the highest levels of peer recognition, their books sometimes circulate by the hundreds of thousands, and every student has read about them. Based on large citation studies, Star Sociologists provides a roster of eminent sociologists, documents the changing elite’s composition over time, contrasts the elite’s career pathways with those of the Nobel Laureates in economics, gives insights into how scholars rise to or fall from eminence, and empirically probes the gatekeeping power of one of its key proponents. The book explores eminence by contextualising conditions that are outside of the elite and argues that in any discipline that is intellectually as disintegrated as sociology, eminence is to be understand as a nested phenomenon: scholars make it into the elite if their ideas are adopted in very different intellectual fields that share little common ground.


  • Asks which factors contribute to the diffusion of an author´s ideas across national and disciplinary boundaries
  • Suggests links between the overall cognitive and intellectual structure of a discipline and the composition of the elite
  • Combines collective biography with in-depth case analyses of Pierre Bourdieu, Seymour M. Lipset, and Robert K. Merton