Readings in Sociology: a Biographical Approach

Readings in Sociology: a Biographical Approach

Readings in Sociology: a Biographical Approach

Readings in Sociology: a Biographical Approach

Excerpt

This reader is primarily intended to be used in conjunction with the introductory textbook Sociology: A Biographical Approach by Peter L. and Brigitte Berger. The most distinctive feature of our textbook is indicated by its subtitle. We have organized the material within a biographical frame of reference; different areas of social life are discussed as far as possible in the chronological order in which they are experienced. In addition to this sequence of presentation, we have made an attempt throughout our textbook to relate the individual's immediate experience of society with the remote, impersonal forces and institutions that constitute the major subject matter of sociology. This reader follows the same principle of organization. While our textbook provides the student with a broad theoretical outline applicable to a variety of specific areas, my reader aims to "fill in" this general outline with the details and colors of specific illustrations. Considering this aim, I have attempted throughout to show the relationship between "classical" sociological theory and the sociological analysis of contemporary problems.

In our textbook we have been very careful to try to control our own theoretical bias by giving close attention to approaches in the field with which we do not agree. In other words, we have presented a lot of things that we do not like along with those that we do like. In preparing this reader, I have been somewhat less concerned with such an ideal of objectivity—that is, I have given preference to materials that I like. Thus, I admit an unembarrassed bias toward materials that express a humanistic approach, by which I simply mean an approach to social phenomena in terms of their subjective human meanings. Nevertheless, this is definitely not a sectarian book. The student will find materials expressing a variety of positions within sociology.

Also as in our textbook, there is here a deliberate "ethnocentric" bias; most of my selections deal with the contemporary American scene. I should like to stress, however, that this ethnocentrism is pedagogical and not ideological. I have made no presumption that American society is more important, let alone better, than other societies. But I have felt that the American student would benefit most from illustrations that refer to situations with which he is most probably familiar. Again for pedagogical reasons, in a number of chapters where this seemed indicated the readings alternate between statements of sociological theory and concrete contemporary cases.

All readers of this kind have a built-in weakness: selection is invariably governed by the limitation of space and the desideratum of readability. In other words, as one puts together a reader one gravitates toward materials . . .

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