Professor Alex Law

Professor of Sociology

School School of Social and Health Sciences

Department Division of Sociology

Contact info

+44 (0)1382 30 8715


My research is informed by relational and historical approaches to sociology. This work involves long-term perspectives in sociological theory and problems of nation, state and society, focussing particularly on Scotland, the UK and Europe.

Recent research examines the ambivalent nature of civic nationalism, the crisis of the UK state, governmental uses of ‘sectarianism’, nationalism in international sport, and the sociology of unintended consequences in the Scottish Enlightenment.

I hold a First Class Honours degree in Social Sciences, Art History and History from the Open University - where I later taught - and a MSc in Policy Studies and a PhD in Sociology from the University of Edinburgh.

I’m willing to supervise students excited by sociological theory, particularly the relational sociology of Pierre Bourdieu and Norbert Elias as it may apply to any substantive issue, including nationalism, violence, established and outsider group relations, media, and the state. To discuss this you can contact me at


Contemporary Social Theory

Classical Social Theory

Sociology of Scotland

Science and Society

Symbolic Power, Media and Cultural Forms

Images of the City

I am concerned to develop sociological theory and research to illuminate long-term processes underlying social relations, power tensions and state formation.

Drawing upon relational sociology, principally inspired by Pierre Bourdieu and Norbert Elias, recent work examines, amongst other things, sectarianism, the independence referendum in Scotland, and the power dynamics between competitive nationalism and competitive sport in international football competitions.

Current work examines the sociology of unintended consequences since the Scottish Enlightenment. A recent book critically examines social theory in the context of recurring crises, (Social Theory for Today, Sage, 2015) while a co-edited book looks at neglected episodes in the history of sociology, (Sociological Amnesia, Ashgate, 2015).

I am willing to supervise students in any area of relational sociology and social theory. The School offers the following research degrees: one-year MSc by Research, two-year MPhil or three-year PhD.  For more information please email



See Abertay Research Collection


Selected publications

(2017) 'Spontaneous order and relational sociology: from the Scottish Enlightenment to human figurations', Russian Sociological Review, 16.4: 14-36.

(2017) ‘The narcissism of national solipsism: Civic nationalism and sub-state formation processes in Scotland’, Human Figurations: Long-Term Perspectives on the Human Condition, 6.2.

(2017) ‘Comparative-historical sociology as antidote to ‘crackpot realism’’, Human Figurations: Long-Term Perspectives on the Human Condition, 6.2 (with Stephen Mennell)

(2017) ‘Post-truth and fake news’, Media Education Journal, 61.

(2017) ‘Scottish Exceptionalism? Normative Codes of Scottish Nationalism in the British and EU Crises’, Cambio. Rivista sulle trasformazioni sociali, VII, 13: 51-66.

(2017) Key Concepts in Classical Social Theory, Farsi trans. by Farhang Ershad, Tehran: Agah Publishers.

(2016-17) ‘Propaganda’, Media Education Journal, 60: 55-7.

(2016) ‘Sectarianism, criminalisation and the civilising process in Scotland’, in H. Croall, G. Mooney and M. Munro, eds., Crime, Justice and Society in Scotland, London: Routledge.

(2016)  'Equality', in R.A. Segal and K. von Stuckrad, eds,. Vocabulary for the Study of Religion, Leiden: Brill.

(2015) Social Theory for Today: Making Sense of Social Worlds, Los Angeles and London: Sage, pp.vii+333.

(2015) Sociological Amnesia: Cross-Currents in Disciplinary History, London: Ashgate. Edited with E.R. Lybeck.

(2014/15) ‘Mediating the Scottish Independence Debate’, Media Education Journal, 56: 3-8.

(2014) ‘Playing with tension: National charisma and disgrace at Euro2012’, Soccer & Society, 15.2: 203-221.

(2013) ‘The De-Civilizing Process and Urban Working Class Youth in Scotland’, Social Justice, 38.4: 106-126 With G. Mooney.

(2012) ‘Scholastic ambivalence and Patrick Geddes: A sociology of failed sociology’, Journal of Scottish Thought, 5: 41-72.

(2012) ‘Devolution in a ‘Stateless Nation’: Nation-Building and Social Policy in Scotland’, Social Policy and Administration, 46.2. With G. Mooney.

(2012) ‘Competitive Nationalism: State, Class and the Forms of Capital in Devolved Scotland’, Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 30: 62-77. With G. Mooney.

(2012) ‘Between Autonomy and Dependency: State and Nation in Devolved Scotland’, in G. Mooney and G. Scott, eds. ‘Social Justice and Social Welfare in Contemporary Scotland’, Bristol: Policy Press, pp. 25-41.

(2012) ‘Common sense (in Social Science)’, International Encyclopaedia of Philosophy and Social Science, Los Angeles and London: Sage.

(2012) ‘Bitter nostalgia: Social redundancy in Irvine Welsh’s ‘Kingdom of Fife’’, in I.W. Macdonald (ed.) Digging the Seam: Cultural Reflections on the Consequences of the 1984/5 Miners' Strike, Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars. With E. Rocks.

(2011) Key Concepts in Classical Social Theory, Los Angeles and London: Sage.

(2010) Urban ‘disorders’, ‘problem places’ and criminal justice in Scotland', in H. Croall, G. Mooney and M. Munro, eds., Criminal Justice in Scotland, Abingdon, Oxon: Willen, pp. 43-64. With G. Mooney and G. Helms.


Meet the rest of the team

Dr James Moir

Dr James Moir

Division of Sociology | Senior Lecturer

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Mr Roderick Lonie

Mr Roderick Lonie

Division of Sociology | Teaching Fellow

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