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Colin Campbell
Emeritus Professor



  • BSc, PhD (London)

Colin was born in Sutton Coldfield in 1940. He obtained his first degree, a BSc. (Econ.), from London University in 1961 and started teaching at the City of Birmingham College of Commerce in the same year. Three years later, in 1964, he moved to York as an Assistant Lecturer in the new combined department of Politics and Sociology. He then obtained his Ph.D., as an external student of the University of London, in 1968.

Colin has been at York ever since, acting as Head of Department from 1990 to 1995, while he has been Emeritus Professor since October 2006. During his period at York Colin has had several spells as a visiting academic at universities at home and abroad. Thus from 1974 to 1976 he was a Visiting Associate Professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver; in 1994 he was a Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford; in 1998 he was Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute for Cultural Pluralism in Rio de Janeiro, while in 1999 he was Visiting Research Fellow at the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra.

Colin is married, with two children and five grandchildren, and lives in Fulford.

More information about Colin’s books can be found at Amazon Author Central.



Cultural change

The problem of explaining cultural change; theories of cultural change; cultural change in the West; Weberian rationalization; cultural change and `the problem of theodicy’; the 1960s counter-culture; bohemianism and youth movements; the Beatles.

Theory of action

Action theory; Max Weber’s theory of action; individual versus social action; the nature and role of motives; action’s relationship to behaviour; habit; agency; action as will; meaning and motive; the role of functional explanation.

Sociology of religion

Rationalization and theodical change; the New Age and neo-Pagan movements; secularization; cults and the cultic milieu; superstition; the occult; the study of non-believers, atheism and agnosticism


Selected publications



Details of Colin’s citations and research profile can be found at, while more information about Colin’s books (including reviews) can be found at Amazon Author Central
Colin’s ORCid is 0000-0002-9162-6345


  • Fashion, Self and Identity’ in Karin M. Ekström (ed.), Marketing Fashion: Critical Perspectives on the Power of Fashion in Contemporary Culture. London: Routledge. 2023.  
  • The Bohemian Beatles’ in James McGrath and Peter Mills, (eds.), The Beatles in Perspective. Sheffield: Equinox. 2023. 
  • `Hedonism and Asceticism’ in Stephan Schwarzkopf (ed.) The Routledge Handbook of Economic Theology. London: Taylor and Francis, 2020.
  • `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.
  • Status Matters? The Contradictions Surrounding Conspicuous Consumption', pp.41-68 in Alejandro Nestor Garcia Martinez (ed.) Being Human in a Consumer Society, (Farnham, England) (2015)
  • The Curse of the New: how the accelerating pursuit of the new is driving hyper-consumption,” pp. 29-51 in Karin M. Ekstrom (ed.) Waste Management and Sustainable Consumption: Reflections on consumer waste. London: Routledge (2015) Campbell - curse of the new (PDF , 296kb)
  • Agency At Work: A Dynamic Interpretive Approach’. Sociology Mind 2 (4): 355-361 (2012).

  • Limits to Agency: Exploring the Unintended (and Unattended) Consequences of Action pp. 45-62 in Adriana Mica, Arkadiusz Peisert, and Jan Winczorek (eds.) Sociology and the Unintended: Robert Merton Revisited. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2011.

  • 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.

  • 'What is wrong with consumerism?’ Anuario Filosofico xliii (2): 279-296.
  • The Easternization of the West: Or, How the West was Lost’ Asian Journal of Social Science 38 (5): 738-757.
  • The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism, Korean Translation Edition by The National Research Foundation of Korea, Seoul.
  • Distinguishing the Power of Agency from Agentic Power: A Note on Weber and the "Black Box" of Personal Agency' Sociological Theory 27 (4): 407-418 (2009)
  • `Beatniks, Moral Crusaders, Delinquent Teenagers and Hippies: Accounting for the Counter Culture’ in The Permissive Society and Its Enemies, Marcus Collins (ed.), London: Rivers Oram Press, 2007.
  • `Do Today’s Sociologists Really Appreciate Weber’s essay The Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism?’ Sociological Review 54 (2) 207-223 (2006).
  • “Weber, Rationalisation and the Evolution of Religious Thought in the Modern Era” in Theorising Religion: Classical and Contemporary Debates, James A. Beckford and John Walliss (eds.) London: Ashgate, 2006.
  • "All You Need Is Love" From Romance to Romanticism: The Beatles, Romantic Love and Cultural Change' Etnofoor XIX (1) 111 - 123 (2006)
  • `The Craft Consumer: Culture, craft and consumption in a postmodern society’, Journal of Consumer Culture 5 (1) 23-41 (2005).
  • `Considering Others and Satisfying the Self: The Moral and Ethical Dimensions of Modern Consumption' pp. 213-226 in Nico Stehr, Christoph Henning and Bernd Weiler (eds.) The Moralization of the Markets. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Books (2005).
  • “I Shop Therefore I Know That I Am: The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Consumerism”, in Elusive Consumption, Karin Ekstrom and Helen Brembeck (eds.), Oxford: Berg, 2004.
  • `On Understanding Modern Consumerism and Misunderstanding the Romantic Ethic Thesis: A Reply to Boden and Williams, Sociology 37:4 791-797 (2003).
  • "When the Meaning is not a Message: A Critique of the Consumption as Communication Thesis" in Mica Nava et al., Buy This Book: Studies in Advertising and Consumption. London: Routledge, 1997.
  • "The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism: Reflections on the Reception of a Thesis Concerning the Origin of the Desire for Goods" in Susan M Pearce (ed.) Experiencing Material Culture. Leicester: Leicester University Press/Cassells, 1997.
  • "The Meaning of Objects and the Meaning of Actions: A Critical Note on the Sociology of Consumption and Theories of Clothing" Journal of Material Culture 1 (1) (1996): 95-105.
  • Detraditionalization, Character, and the Limits to Agency", in Paul Heelas, Scott Lasch and Paul Morris (eds.), Detraditionalization, Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.
  • "On the Concept of Motive in Sociology" Sociology 30, 1, 101-114 (1996).
  • "Half-belief and the paradox of ritual instrumental activism: a theory of modern superstition" The British Journal of Sociology 47, 1, 151-165 (1996).
  • "Capitalism, Consumption and the Problem of Motives: Some issues in the understanding of conduct as illustrated by an examination of the treatment of motive and meaning in the works of Weber and Veblen", in Jonathan Friedman (ed.), Consumption and Identity. Reading: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1995.
  • "Conspicuous Confusion? A Critique of Veblen's Theory of Conspicuous Consumption" Sociological Theory 13 1, 37-47, (1995).
  • "The Sociology of Consumption" in Daniel Miller (ed.). Approaching Consumption, London: Routledge, 1995.
  • "The Desire for the New: Its Nature and Social Location as Presented in Theories of Fashion and Modern Consumerism" in Consuming Technologies: Media and Information in Domestic Spaces. Roger Silverman and Eric Hirsch (eds.). London: Routledge, 1992.
  • "In Defence of the Traditional Concept of Action in Sociology" The Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 22, 1, 1-23, (1992).
  • "The Cultural Sources of Support for Contemporary Occultism" Social Compass 34 1, 41-60, 1987. (With Shirley McIver)
  • "A Dubious Distinction? An Inquiry into the Value and Use of Merton's concepts of Latent and Manifest Function" American Sociological Review 47, 29-44, 1982.
  • "Clarifying the cult" British Journal of Sociology 28, 3, 375-88, 1977.
  • "The Cult, the Cultic Milieu and Secularisation" A Sociological Yearbook of Religion in Britain 5, 119-36, 1972.

Contact details

Professor Colin Campbell
Emeritus professor
Department of Sociology
University of York