USIA Fellow Prof. Anthony Elliott


Professor Anthony Elliott is the Honorary Social Theory of AI Advisor of the United Sigma Intelligence Association.

He is Dean of External Engagement, Professor of Sociology and Executive Director of the Hawke EU Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence and Network at the University of South Australia. Professor Elliott is also Global Professor of Sociology (Visiting) in the Graduate School of Human Relations, Keio University, Japan and Visiting Professor of Sociology at University College Dublin, Ireland.

Anthony Elliott was born in Australia and holds a BA Honours degree from the University of Melbourne and a PhD from Cambridge University, where he was supervised by Lord Anthony Giddens, architect of Third Way progressive politics. Professor Elliott was formerly Director of the Hawke Research Institute at UniSA (2012-2016), and Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Head of the Department of Sociology at Flinders University (2006-2012).

Professor Elliott contributes to media worldwide: among others, he has recently been interviewed by the BBC World Service, The Sunday Times, ABC Radio National, The Australian, BBC Radio 4, GMTV Sunday, as well as European and North American radio and television networks.


Professor Elliott is a prominent social theorist, sociologist and public intellectual. He is the author and editor of some 40 books, which have been translated or are forthcoming in 17 languages. His books include Social Theory and Psychoanalysis in Transition, Psychoanalytic Theory: An Introduction, Subject To Ourselves, The Mourning of John Lennon, Critical Visions, Social Theory Since Freud, The New Individualism (with Charles Lemert), Making The Cut: How Cosmetic Surgery is Transforming Our Lives, Mobile Lives (with John Urry), On Society (with Bryan S. Turner), Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction, Reinvention and The Culture of AI. He is best known for Concepts of the Self, which has been in continuous print for over 20 years and across three editions.

Current Research

In 2016, Professor Elliott was awarded an Australian Research Council Major Grant for research on robotics, artificial intelligence and the future of employment. This project is conducted with colleagues at the Institute for Social Futures, Lancaster University; the Australian National University and Wollongong University. In 2017 Professor Elliott was awarded a Toyota Foundation Research Programme Grant to research socially assistive robotics in aged care along with Japanese and Australian colleagues, an Australian Research Council Major Grant for research on Industry 4.0 with a German partner investigator, and an EU Erasmus+ Jean Monnet Project for research on robotics and digital skills with colleagues from Germany, Poland, Finland, New Zealand and Australia. In 2018 Professor Elliott was awarded an EU Erasmus+ Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence and an EU Erasmus+ Jean Monnet Network for research on driverless vehicles with colleagues from Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.



In this ground-breaking book, Cambridge-trained sociologist Anthony Elliott argues that much of what passes for conventional wisdom about artificial intelligence is either ill-considered or plain wrong. The reason? The AI revolution is not so much about cyborgs and super-robots in the future, but rather massive changes in the here-and-now of everyday life.

In The Culture of AI, Elliott explores how intelligent machines, advanced robotics, accelerating automation, big data and the Internet of Everything impact upon day-to-day life and contemporary societies. With remarkable clarity and insight, Elliott’s examination of the reordering of everyday life highlights the centrality of AI to everything we do – from receiving Amazon recommendations to requesting Uber, and from getting information from virtual personal assistants to talking with chatbots.

The rise of intelligent machines transforms the global economy and threatens jobs, but equally there are other major challenges to contemporary societies – although these challenges are unfolding in complex and uneven ways across the globe. The Culture of AI explores technological innovations from industrial robots to softbots, and from self-driving cars to military drones.

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“Artificial Intelligence is an overused term which has been the subject of too many inflated claims. So we are lucky that in this book, Anthony Elliott expertly guides us through this thicket of hyperbole and out onto clearer ground. His emphasis on what software does – what Kaplan has called anthropic computing – and how it is transforming the mundanities of everyday life through a grab-bag of software is a welcome antidote to AI as a false idol which, at the same time, shows us where the opportunities and worries really are. A measured read which really takes the measure of AI.”

Sir Nigel Thrift, Visiting Professor, Oxford and Tsinghua Universities


Routledge Handbook of Celebrity Studies offers a remarkably clear overview of the analysis of celebrity in the social sciences and humanities, and in so doing seeks to develop a new agenda for celebrity studies. The key theories of celebrity, ranging from classical sociological accounts to critical theory, and from media studies to postmodern approaches, are drawn together and critically appraised.

There are substantive chapters looking at fame, renown and celebrity in terms of the media industries, pop music, the makeover industries, soap stars, fans and fandom as well as the rise of non-Western forms of celebrity. The Handbook also explores in detail the institutional aspects of celebrity, and especially new forms of mediated action and interaction. From Web 3.0 to social media, the culture of celebrity is fast redefining the public political sphere.

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Identity Troubles documents various contemporary mutations of identity – from robotics to biomedicine, from cosmetic surgery to digital lives – and considers their broader social, cultural and political consequences.

Elliott offers a synthesis of the key conceptual innovations in identity studies in the context of recent social theory. He critically examines accounts of “individualization”, “reflexivity”, “liquidization” and “new maladies of the soul” – situating these in wider social and historical contexts, and drawing out critical themes. He follows with a series of chapters looking at how what is truly new in contemporary life is having profound consequences for identities, both private and public. This book will be essential reading for undergraduate students in sociology, cultural studies, political science, and human geography. It offers the first comprehensive overview of identity studies in the interdisciplinary field of social theory.

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“A compelling and original analysis of the impact of the digital revolution upon everyday life, the self and the body.”

Anthony Giddens, House of Lords and the London School of Economics, UK

In this insightful and provocative book, Anthony Elliott examines ‘reinvention’ as a key buzzword of our times. Through a wide-ranging and impassioned assessment, Elliott reviews the new global forms of reinvention – from reinvention gurus to business reinvention, from personal makeovers to corporate rebrandings. In doing so, he undertakes a serious if often amusing consideration of contemporary reinvention practices, including super-fast weight loss diets, celebrity makeovers, body augmentations, speed dating, online relationship therapies, organizational restructurings, business downsizings, and many more.

This absorbing book is an ideal introduction to the topic of reinvention for students and general readers alike. Reinvention offers a provocative and radical reflection on an issue (sometimes treated as trivial in the public sphere) that is increasingly politically urgent in terms of its personal, social and environmental consequences.


” Only the hardiest of souls dare look honestly at the welter of changes that beset us all. Still again Anthony Elliott shows us how it is done and what we must face.”

– Professor Charles Lemert, Yale University, USA

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In this provocative study of “life on the move”, Anthony Elliott and John Urry explore how complex mobility systems are transforming everyday, ordinary lives. The authors develop their arguments through an analysis of various sectors of mobile lives: networks, new digital technologies, consumerism, the lifestyles of ‘globals’, and intimate relationships at-a-distance. Elliott and Urry introduce a range of new concepts – miniaturized mobilities, affect storage, network capital, meetingness, neighbourhood lives, portable personhood, ambient place, globals – to capture the specific ways in which mobility systems intersect with mobile lives.

This book represents a novel approach in “post-carbon” social theory. It will be essential reading for advanced undergraduate students, postgraduates and teachers in sociology, social theory, politics, geography, international relations, cultural studies, and economics and business studies.

“The book succeeds brilliantly in capturing the fluidity and lure of our deeply problematic contemporary mobilities. The costs and benefits of our mobile lives are revealed by the authors with an unusually sharp eye”

– Professor Helga Nowotny, ETH Zurich, Switzerland

‘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.

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“It is rare to find such a combination of lucidity and erudition. Many different readers will find much to engage them here, from first-year students to experienced academics. Tremendous.”
– Professor John Urry, Lancaster University, UK

In this captivating book, which draws upon research conducted in Europe, America and Australasia, social commentator Anthony Elliott investigates the rise and rise of cosmetic surgery, lucidly reviewing recent developments in celebrity culture and the consumer industries, which many argue are responsible for the popularity of cosmetic and surgical forms of extreme reinvention. Yet it is not just cultural forces advancing the makeover industries: Elliott shows that cosmetic surgical culture has become increasingly global in our own time as a result of major institutional changes dominating public life in Western societies. He provocatively argues that personal vulnerabilities have reached the point where people turn to surgical culture in an effort to reinvent themselves and improve their life prospects.

Making the Cut paints a disturbing social portrait of a global culture held in thrall to immediacy, where cosmetic surgical enhancements of the body are fundamental to new forms of self-design and self-improvement.

“Elliott makes a lot of interesting points and connections between the ‘desires’ of the individual and the needs of the global economy (newer, thinner, faster) and how those things are being carved into our flesh. Indeed, while reading it, you can’t but think you are watching the birth of an ‘expert.’ . . . His mind works in intriguing ways.”

– Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times

This is a new and revised edition of a book which has had a major impact upon the social sciences and public political debate. Anthony Elliott and Charles Lemert’s The New Individualism inspired readers with the dramatic suggestion that ‘the reinvention craze’ – from self-help and therapy culture to management restructurings and corporate downsizings – is central to a ‘new individualism’ sweeping the globe. Giving particular attention to the narratives of people seeking to define anew their lives in an age of globalization, the authors contend that an endless hunger for instant change and relentless emphasis on self-reinvention is fundamental to grasping the disorientating effects of the new individualism.

This edition contains a substantial new Introduction in which Elliott and Lemert reply to some of the standard criticisms made of the theory of the new individualism, and also addresses the escalation of new individualist thinking in the wake of recent global crises.

“It’s not a business book, but these two sociologists have some interesting things to say about the way we construct our identities in the age of Botox.”

– Voted into the 50 Best Management Books For 2006 by The Australian Financial Review.

“An inspiring book.”

– Professor Ulrich Beck, British Journal of Sociology

More than ten years on from its original publication, Concepts of the Self still mesmerizes with its insight, comprehensiveness and critique of debates over the self in the social sciences and humanities. Anthony Elliott has written a new preface to this third edition to address some of the most recent developments in the field, and offers a powerful challenge to what he describes as ‘the emergence of anti-theories of the self’.

The first two editions have proven exceptionally popular among students and teachers worldwide. Anthony Elliott provides a scintillating introduction to the major accounts of the self from symbolic interactionism and psychoanalysis to post-feminism and postmodernism. This new edition has been extensively revised and updated to take account of more recent theoretical developments, and a new chapter has been added on individualization which focuses on how the self becomes an agent of ‘do-it-yourself’ autobiographical reconstruction in an age of intensive globalization.

“This great little book contains everything you wished but did not dare to ask about the meaning of the “self” – one of the thorniest, most contentious, exciting and enraging issues of our times and our lives in these times. To the questions you might have asked or are likely to ask yet, Elliott offers answers that are carefully weighted, balanced and realistic – drawing from the vast treasury of sociological insights and moving freely between the variety of complementary, even if ostensibly adversarial, perspectives. Elliott’s book is good to read, to learn from and to think with. It helps to understand what it means to “have a self” and to “be oneself” – an understanding that itself is a foremost condition of both. This new edition makes sure that our knowledge and understanding continue to be up to date.”
– Zygmunt Bauman, University of Leeds

Influential, exciting and often controversial, psychoanalytic theory has had a major impact in the humanities and social sciences. In a new edition of this classic book, Anthony Elliott masterfully introduces the reader to psychoanalytic theory. He provides lucid interpretations of key theorists, as well as exploring their impact on society, culture and politics.

Psychoanalytic Theory: An Introduction

  • discusses leading psychoanalytic theorists – from Freud to Lacan, Klein to Kristeva, Žižek to Laplanche;

  • examines the political and cultural dimensions of psychoanalytic studies, from feminism to postmodernism;

  • contains new material on Lacanian and post-Lacanian theory, the post-Kleinian psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion, psychoanalytic feminism and deconstructive psychoanalysis.

Written by one of the world’s leading social theorists, this engaging and influential text is essential reading for anyone wanting to learn about psychoanalytic theory and its cultural importance in our lives.

“This is an exceptionally lucid, learned and comprehensive examination of the richly diverse field of psychoanalysis in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Elliott makes the case for the continuing relevance of psychoanalysis to the humanities and social sciences by demonstrating the linkages between psyche, politics and culture in each major strand of psychoanalytic theory since Freud. A truly impressive achievement!”

– Madelon M. Sprengnether, Regents Professor, Department of English, University of Minnesota, USA

In this comprehensive, stylish and accessible introduction to contemporary social theory, Anthony Elliott examines the major social theoretical traditions. The first edition set new standards for introductory textbooks, such was the far-reaching sweep of social theorists discussed.

From the Frankfurt School to globalization, from feminism to the network society, this new edition has been fully revised and updated, taking into account the most recent developments in social theory. The second edition also contains a completely new chapter on classical social theory, allowing students to contextualise the modern debates.

Like its predecessor, the second edition of Contemporary Social Theory combines stylish exposition with reflective social critique and original insights. This new edition will prove a superb textbook with which to navigate the twists and turns of contemporary social theory as taught in the disciplines of sociology, politics, history, cultural studies and many more.

“It is very hard to write an outstanding introduction to any subject and particularly hard to do so for a subject as demanding as contemporary social theory. Anthony Elliott succeeds superbly. His book offers a reliable guide to the big debates in social theory while never glossing over difficult questions”

– Professor David Held, London School of Economics, UK

In this comprehensive, stylish and accessible introduction to contemporary social theory, Anthony Elliott and Charles Lemert examine the major theoretical traditions from the Frankfurt School to globalization and beyond. When first published, the book’s wide range set new standards for introductory textbooks – social theorists discussed include Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Anthony Giddens, Pierre Bourdieu, Julia Kristeva, Jurgen Habermas, Judith Butler, Slavoj Zizek, Manuel Castells, Ulrich Beck, Zygmunt Bauman, Giorgio Agamben and Manuel De Landa.

Extensively developed to take into account significant recent developments in American social theory, the book offers chapters on American pragmatism, structural functionalism, ethnomethodology, black feminist thought and world-systems theory. American traditions of social theory are brought powerfully to life in treatments of intellectuals ranging from William James to Robert K. Merton, David Riesman to Randall Collins, and Patricia Hill Collins to Saskia Sassen.

Introduction to Contemporary Social Theory combines lively exposition and clarity with reflective social critique and original insights, and is a superb textbook with which to navigate the twists and turns of contemporary social theory as taught in the disciplines of sociology, politics, history, cultural studies and many more.

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“Once again, Elliott and Lemert have written an exceedingly intelligent, generously interdisciplinary, and politically relevant social theory textbook. From its first story to its last question for further study, Introduction to Contemporary Social Theory is a lucid invitation to the critical study of social theory from two of the field’s most eloquent and distinguished scholars.”

– Avery Gordon, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara

In this compelling book, Anthony Elliott traces the rise of psychoanalysis from the Frankfurt School to postmodernism. Examining how pathbreaking theorists such as Adorno, Marcuse, Lacan and Lyotard have deployed psychoanalysis to politicise issues such as desire, sexuality, repression and identity, Elliott assesses the gains and losses arising from this appropriation of psychoanalysis in social theory and cultural studies.

Moving from the impact of the Culture Wars and recent Freud-bashing to contemporary debates in social theory, feminism and postmodernism, Elliott argues for a new alliance between sociological and psychoanalytic perspectives.

“Anthony Elliott has once again provided a lucid and critical examination of the relationship between psychoanalysis and social theory. While many writers are still catching up with Lacan’s work, Elliott explains the major advances to be found in post-Lacanian theory, and shows how it offers a new view of subjectivity and the ‘imagination’ attuned to the complexities of contemporary social life.”

– Professor Stephen Frosh, Birkbeck College, London

The revised edition of Subject to Ourselves, a lively and provocative book that was a leader on its topic in England, uses psychoanalytic theory as the basis for a fresh reassessment of the nature of modernity and postmodernism. Analyzing changing experiences of selfhood, desire, interpersonal relations, culture and globalization, the author develops a novel account of postmodernity that supplants current understandings of “fragmented selves.” Subject to Ourselves includes a diverse set of case studies, including the power of fantasy in military violence and war, the debate over sexual seduction in psychoanalysis, and the cultural uses of media and new information technologies. The book will be essential reading for students and professionals of social and political theory, psychoanalytic studies, psychology and cultural studies, as well as those with an interest in the modernity/postmodernity debate.

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“Different readers will retrieve different foods-for-thought from the bountiful harvest of Elliott’s extraordinary erudition and in-depth analyses. Personally, I particularly cherised the chance to learn about the ‘complex, contradictory fatnasy scenarios that creatively shape, and are also shaped by, the social and cultural worlds of modernity and postmodernity.’ Elliott’s meticulous anatomy of that new, mellowed wisdom is second to none.”

– Zygmunt Bauman, University of Leeds

Originally published in 2003, Critical Visions develops a wide-ranging analysis of key issues and debates in contemporary social theory. Drawing social theory, cultural studies, and psychoanalysis together in a bold configuration, the book challenges the widespread view that social theory seems to have lost its way as a result of the diversification of conceptual approaches. The book includes critical readings of the terrain of contemporary social theory and theorists. Questions relating to the globalization of risk, citizenship, morality and ethics, politics and norms, and sexuality and desire are all explored.

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Critical Visions: New Directions in Social Theory challenges us with the question of whether the moral sciences (sociology, politics, psychoanalysis, and ethics) can survive their own identity crises – given the problematic status of both their (liberal) subject and their theoretical object (knowledge/power)…. Elliott poses serious ethical concerns about our ability to get beyond ultimately narcissistic investments in community, hybridity, and otherness which may undermine citizenship and cosmopolitanism”

– John O’Neill, Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology, York University, Toronto

Originally published in 1999 Social Theory and Psychoanalysis in Transition is a benchmark critique of Freudian theory in which a dialogue between the Frankfurt School, the Lacanian tradition and post-Lacanian developments in critical and feminist theory is developed. Considering afresh the relations between self and society, Elliott argues for the importance of imagination and the unconscious in understanding issues about the self and self-identity, ideology and power, sexual difference and gender.

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Social Theory and Psychoanalysis in Transition is a remarkably lucid encounter with the major social and psyschoanalytic theorists of the 20th century. Deftly guiding us through this difficult terrain, Anthony Elliott also provides terms for a new, critical, social theory. Here, the self in all its complexity, assumes its rightful place in social thought. This is an important book: Elliott carves out refreshingly a post-postmodern social analysis that is both affirmative and sufficiently complex.”

– Professor Jeffrey Prager, University of California

*Source from Anthony Elliott Website.