'Society' is one of the most frequently used words in public life; it is also a foundational term in the social sciences. In our own time, however, the idea has never been so much in dispute and so little understood. For some critics, society is simply too consensual for a world of intensive discord. For others, the idea of 'society' is oppressive - the very notion, so some argue, is dismissive of the infinite social differences that shape global realities. In this erudite and original book, two of the world's leading social theorists focus on unravelling the different meanings of society as a way of introducing the reader to contemporary debates in social theory. The authors argue provocatively that all ideas of society can be assigned to one of three analytical categories, or some combination of these - structure, solidarity or creation - and develop a fresh characterization of the nature of the social as a means of understanding global transformations. By integrating abstract problems of social theory with empirical examples and political analysis, On Society provides lucid interpretations of classical and contemporary social theory. The book also critiques recent social theories that simply equate the demise of society with globalization, the communications revolution or multiculturalism, and in so doing provides an original insight into today's world.