Scholarship & Publications


Colin’s forte is scholarship rather than research, at least as these terms are currently understood.

That is to say he doesn’t undertake the externally funded collection of fresh data, but rather concentrates on resolving conceptual and theoretical issues in the discipline through the careful study of extant sources. Thus, although he doesn’t apply for research funding he has been successful in obtaining grants and fellowships which have enabled him to be bought out of teaching, thereby gaining time to read, think and write. This emphasis on scholarship also means that he is unhappy to be thought of as a sociologist of something (i.e. a distinct area within sociology, such as religion, consumerism or cultural change) but prefers the simple, unmodified, label of `sociologist’, implying someone who tackles sociological problems, no matter what particular form they might take.

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This list of awards includes the following:

The British Academy Research Fund in 1982; A Norman Chester Senior Research Fellowship in 1992/3; a Social Science Research Fellowship in 1997; a Visiting Scholarship at the Institute for Cultural Pluralism at the Candido Mendes University, Rio de Janeiro 1998; a Visiting Fellowship by the Australian National University Humanities Research Centre for 1999; and an Arts and Humanities Research Board fellowship in 2001. This emphasis on scholarship rather than research is evident in the fact that some 90% of his publications are sole authored.


Colin is best-known as the author of The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism, while he is also recognized for his pioneering work on the study of non-religion (see Toward A Sociology of Irreligion) and for adding the terms `cultic milieu’ and `craft consumer’ to the lexicon of sociological concepts. He has also received recognition for his attempts to develop both a neo-Weberian theory of action (See The Myth of Social Action) and cultural change (See The Easternization of the West).
The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism
Widely recognised as `a modern classic’ The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism was first published by Basil Blackwell in 1987. A paperback version was issued two years later, while the book was reprinted in 1990, 1993, 1994 and 1995. It has since been translated into Italian, Portuguese, Slovenian, Chinese and Korean. A new, extended, edition was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018.
The Sociology of Irreligion
The Sociology of Irreligion, which was published in 1971 by Herder and Herder, and then again by Alcuin Academics in 2013, (Spanish Edition published by Technos in 1977) represented a development of ideas that were originally outlined in his Ph.D. thesis. Largely ignored for several decades, this book finally came into its own in the 2010s, as sociologists of religion increasingly turned to the study of non-religion.
The Cult, the Cultic Milieu and Secularisation
The concept of the `cultic milieu’ was introduced in an article entitled “The Cult, the Cultic Milieu and Secularisation”, which appeared in a publication entitled A Sociological Yearbook of Religion in Britain no. 5, in 1972. One of his most cited articles, this concept has been reproduced in collections (see Steve Bruce (ed.) (1995) The Sociology of Religion Vol II (The International Library of Critical Writings in Sociology) Elgar; and in a work of the same title by Jeffrey Kaplan and Helene Lööw (eds) (2002), The Cultic Milieu: Oppositional Subcultures in an Age of Globalization, Altamira Press. It is now commonly listed in sociological dictionaries and encyclopaedias.
The Craft Consumer: culture, craft and consumption in a postmodern society
The concept of the Craft Consumer was outlined in an article with the full title of`The Craft Consumer: culture, craft and consumption in a postmodern society’, which was published in The Journal of Consumer Culture in 2005. It is now Colin’s second most cited publication after The Romantic Ethic. It is reproduced, along with ten other articles of his on consumption and consumer society, in Consumption and Consumer Society: The Craft Consumer and Other Essays, which was published by Palgrave Macmillan, 2021. His contribution to the sociology of consumption can also be found in Cultura, Consumo e Identidade, FGV Editora, Rio de Janeiro 2006 (edited with Livia Barbosa).
Colin the Neo-Weberian
Colin’s interest in Max Weber’s work on action theory and cultural change goes back to his homage to the great man in The Romantic Ethic as well as an early defense of his theory (see `In Defence of the Traditional Concept of Action in Sociology’, The Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 22, 1, 1-23, 1992); as well as the subsequent, Do Today’s Sociologists Really Appreciate Weber’s essay The Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism?’ Sociological Review 54 (2) 207-223 (2006). A very definite Weberian influence, and in many ways a follow-on to The Romantic Ethic, is also to be found in The Easternization of the West: A Thematic Account of Cultural Change in the Modern Era, Paradigm Publishers, Boulder, CO, 2007.
The Beatles
Colin’s interest in cultural change led to a focus on the 1960s and the youth movement known as the counter-culture. This, in turn, led to an interest in the role played by the Beatles. One lasting consequence of which has been his exploration of the Beatles’ genius as lyricists, a subject on which he is now an acknowledged expert. See The Bohemian Beatles’ in James McGrath and Peter Mills, (eds.), The Beatles in Perspective. Sheffield: Equinox. 2023. All Those Words They Seem To Slip Away’. How the Intentional Fallacy Prevents Serious Study of The Beatles’ Lyrics’. Sociologica X: 4 (Italian journal of sociology online) 1, 2016, January-April. The Continuing Story of Eleanor Rigby: Analysing the Lyric of a Popular Beatles’ Song. Troubadour, 2018. From Romance to Romanticism: The Beatles 1964/5-1970, pp. 15-28 in J. Jarniewicz and A. Kwiatkowska (eds.)Fifty Years With the Beatles: The Impact of the Beatles on Contemporary Culture. Lodz: Lodz University Press, 2010. Things We Said Today: the complete lyrics and a concordance to the Beatles’ songs 1962-1970. Ann Arbor, MI: The Pierian Press (with Allan Murphy)

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