Alexander gained his BA from Harvard in 1969 and his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 1978. He worked at the University of California, Los Angeles, from 1974 until joining Yale University in 2001, where (as of 2008) he is the Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology and co-Director of the Center for Cultural Sociology.
Alexander has authored or co-authored ten books. He is one of the editors of the journal Sociological Theory.
In sociology, neofunctionalism represents a revival of the thought of Talcott Parsons by Jeffrey C. Alexander, who sees neofunctionalism as having 5 central tendencies:
to create a form of functionalism that is multidimensional and includes micro as well as macro levels of analysis
to push functionalism to the left and reject Parsons’s optimism about modernity
to argue for an implicit democratic thrust in functional analysis
to incorporate a conflict orientation, and
to emphasize uncertainty and interactional creativity.
While Parsons consistently viewed actors as analytical concepts, Alexander defines action as the movement of concrete, living, breathing persons as they make their way through time and space. In addition he argues that every action contains a dimension of free will, by which he is expanding functionalism to include some of the concerns of symbolic interactionism.