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A student and colleague of sociobiologist E.O. Wilson, Machalek is best known for using traditional sociological frameworks and theories to explain complex social behavior and structures in non-human societies, with a special emphasis on ant populations.
Machalek has repeatedly – and only half jokingly – called for a “one-hundred year moratorium on studying humans within the field of sociology” and he thus believes that the bedrock of sociological knowledge lies in explaining social phenomena that are exhibited across many different types of species. He can be, and often is, considered a radical sociological theorist in this regard. In such, Machalek also applies knowledge from the fields of evolutionary theory, zoology, and biology and is especially concerned with the trans-species social behaviors of cheating, cooperation, and division of labor, among others.
Besides teaching at a number of universities, in 1986 he was a visiting professor at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology under the tutelage of E.O. Wilson, and currently teaches sociology at the University Of Wyoming.
Machalek enjoys a relatively large – if controversial – impact within the field of sociology, especially when his relative lack of published work is considered as compared to theorists with similar levels of influence. He is perhaps more comfortable as a professor than social thinker, and sociological theory textbook authors have often been forced to use his unpublished papers as backing citations for chapters or sections written about him. Still, he has published dozens of papers and is perhaps most recognized for his contributions to the Advances in Human Ecology series.
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