Inspired by Diamats 'presentation', i find such a topic a good choice to exchange thoughts about authors and their stuff regarding social sciences.
Especially one book, which had a big impact on me in the 80's, which i'd like to recommend, is:
Ludwig Marcuse, Philosophie des Glücks - Von Hiob bis Freud
/ Diogenes Verlag AG, Zürich, 1972
ISBN 3 257 20021 8
Perhaps the title is still available, and who knows, translated to english.
Title translated is, circa: Philosophy of Happiness - From Hiob to Freud
(the latter part is a subtitle)
Marcuse investigates philosophy and history from about (examples) Hiob, Seneca, Schopenhauer, Marx, Tolstoi and R. Owen. The core theme is, you guessed it, the human seek for happiness.
Another one, with at least the same caliber of impact, as well i read that in the 80's.
Hans Strotzka, Macht - Ein psychoanalytischer Essay
/Geist und Psyche, Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1988
ISBN 3 596 42303 1
Title translated: Power - A psycho-analytic Essay
Strotzka studied medicine, psychotherapy and socialpsychiatry. In this work (he wrote a lot more), he investigates the basis, causes and examples, of humans who seek power and its systems, and shows us in his way, why the world is like it is. A kind of indepth social-psychological and political analysis. Very enlightning!
Perhaps this book is translated to english and available. I can strongly recommend it.
Personally, I adore Bauman's work. Particularly this one, as flawed as it may be.
Bauman, Z. (1989) Modernity and the Holocaust, Cambridge: Polity. ISBN, 0745609309
Basically how the Holocaust is symptomatic of modernity, rather than being a decivilising incident within a civilising process - like Norbert Elias would argue. Instead of the Germans being horrifically anti-Semitic; bureaucratic instrumental rationality, the division of labour, and conformity allow for industrial-scale genocide.
Also, another one for people interested in reading what political science/sociology was like before the 60s really happened.
Lipset, S. (1960) Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics, Garden City NY: Doubleday.
It's very old-fashioned as you'd expected, but reads well and is something interesting all the same. The section on fascism is particularly interesting and still features in historiography.
I wouldn't call Thucydides a lay person, really... I mean, IR theory and historiography owe him an awful lot!
I thought this thread was about works on methodology?
If it still is, my recommendation is as follows:
Ollman, Bertell. 2003. Dance of the Dialectic: Steps in Marx's Method. Urbana, Ill: University of Illinois Press.
The reason I am recommending this is simple. Although you will most likely never be assigned this book in a graduate seminar on methodology, it is one of those rare books by people who actually understand Marx. Most social scientists don't actually realize how "Marxist" they already are in their methodology (No: Marxism does NOT mean economic determinism or any sort of reductionism). It is only upon realizing what Marxism truly means that they can better understand not only dialectical materialism but also their own methodology. This will help them become aware of how they approach research, the basic ontology behind their worldview, and maybe how it could be bettered. It is better to consciously employ a methodology than to apply a methodology blindly.
Which brings us to our next work:
King, Gary, Robert O. Keohane, and Sidney Verba. 1994. Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
This work has received mixed reviews by scholars. But the reason for this is mostly that they do not understand the purpose of this work. It is a guide to qualitative research, not quantitative. The book consists of useful tips to design your research more scientifically. If you sometimes struggle with making a strong argument, this book can help you. It will help make your arguments stronger and more scientific. This is a must-read for any PhD student, and most graduate seminars on methodology cover it.
No, your presentation was about methodology, not this thread.
As for works on methodlogy, I do enjoy Giddens' book on the subject.
Giddens, A. (1976, and later editions) New Rules of a Sociological Method: A Positive Critique of Interpretative Sociologies, London: Hutchinson.
A useful revisiting of Durkheim's positivism and pretty useful when looking at Gidden's later work on reflexive modernity and the risk society thesis.
I'm more of an Empirical Dude, I like the ''structural-functionalist'' approach of Merton the most because of it's simplicity to understand restricted problems of modern society... therefore and without much further introduction I would like to fully recommend reading his Magnum Opus: Social Theory and Social Structure.
The book is from the late 50's, but the simplicity to explain some of society's more complex problems is really refreshing.
Subjects touched: ''Deviancy'', ''Latent and Manifest Functions'', ''Social Roles'', ''Theoretical reflections'' and ''Sociology of Science''.