Randall Collins, Ph.D.

Randall Collins, Ph.D.

Dorothy Swaine Thomas Professor of Sociology


277 McNeil Building


Ph.D., Sociology, University of California, Berkeley, 1969
M.A., Sociology, University of California, Berkeley, 1965
M.A., Psychology, Stanford University, 1964
A.B. Harvard College, 1963

Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests

Collins’ past research includes:

  • The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change [1998], which analyzes the networks of philosophers and mathematicians for over two thousand years in both Asian and Western societies, and shows what kinds of network patterns produce higher and lower levels of creative innovation in ideas.
  • Macro-History: Essays in Sociology of the Long Run  [1999], focusing on the relationship between military geopolitics and state expansion and state breakdown, including causes of changing ethnic and national identities; structural determinants of democracy; and Collins’ 1980 prediction of the breakdown of the Russian empire.
  • Interaction Ritual Chains [2004], a theory of rituals in everyday life that produce higher or lower levels of group solidarity, commitment to symbols, and emotional energy in individuals, and thus moves persons through one pathway or another in the social networks that make up human lives.
  • Violence: A Micro-sociological Theory [2008] studies situations in which violence happens or fails to happen, using data from photos and videos as well as close ethnographic observations, and showing the micro-techniques and contingencies through which some persons win, lose, are stalemated, or keep their distance.
  • Collins’ current work includes macro patterns of violence including contemporary war, as well as solutions to police violence. Also in process are a series on what produces charismatic leaders, and on how sociological processes generate creativity in literature and science.
Courses Taught