should you assign theory for the working sociologist?
This April, Columbia University Press will publish Theory for the Working Sociologist. This book is my attempt to explain how sociologists think in clear language. Should you assign this book in your class? I think it makes sense for a number of classes. Let me tell you a little about what is inside and then I’ll tell you which classes this would be suited for:
- Following Randall Collins, I focus on four major strands of theory: power/inequality; values/culture/structure, choice/strategic action, social construction.
- Instead of reviewing classical theory, I mix and match. I use a lot of examples from modern research. For example, when talking about inequality, I talk about classical approaches, like Marx and DuBois, but I also talk about lots of modern people like Pierre Bourdieu, Annette Lareau, and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva.
- Application to concrete cases: As you can guess by now, this book is about translating theoretical intuitions into concrete research paradigms. So, for example, you get a discussion of habitus and then you get examples from Lareau and Bonilla-Silva who apply the idea to social class and race.
- Plain language: One reviewer said that the book had the clearest explanation of Bourdieu that s/he had ever read. Mission accomplished! The book is my attempt to present tricky ideas in ways that most social scientists can understand.
So who should read this book?
- Upper division theory students – After taking topical courses on inequality or organizations, students usually need a framework for pulling it together.
- Beginner graduate students – This book also seems to work well with early career graduate students who don’t quite get all the connections between research areas in sociology (e.g., Why did Ann Swidler take the time to trash Parsons and rational choice in her’83 article? Chapter 4 tells you why!)
- Outsider who just want to catch up on sociology. Sure you can read lots of wonderful summaries of Durkheim and Weber, but this book walks you through a lot of 21st century sociology.
I hope this summary piques your interest. The press will send exam copies.Thanks for reading.
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