One of our colleagues' first reactions upon seeing the outline for this book was, 'Not another introductory sociology textbook!' He even wondered with amusement if there were 'statistics available on whether the total weight of the world's introductory sociology textbooks is greater than the total weight of the world's first-year sociology students'. While we have some sympathy with his view, we are convinced that our book offers a unique introduction to Australian sociology and we chose the title Public Sociology to reflect this.
Why public sociology?
Public sociology—a re-imagining of C.W. Mills' notion of critical sociology—is premised on the principles of theoretical and methodological pluralism, and highlights the utility and relevance of an empirically grounded sociological perspective to Australian social life. It aims to encourage reflexivity among students so they can apply a sociological gaze to their own lives and the communities in which they live.
Sociology has many publics, and the theme of Public Sociology is that sociology must reach out beyond the academy—particularly to policy, business, community, and student audiences. All contributors to this book have addressed current public debates and highlighted the contribution of Australian sociological research wherever possible. Clearly, this book is primarily aimed at the student public, particularly the first-year student about to encounter sociology for the first time.
In keeping with the aim of both engaging our readers and meeting the needs of our student public, we have ensured that all contributors' chapters are accessible, topical and lively. We have also included a broader range of foundational and topic-based chapters, such as two separate theory chapters (foundational and contemporary), a chapter that explains the main research methods used by sociologists and offers advice on how to evaluate research studies, as well as chapters on current social issues such as globalisation, urbanisation and rurality, the environment, sport, consumption, contemporary Indigenous issues, ethnicity, youth, and cultural hybridity.
We are also keenly aware of the need to supplement the text with pedagogic features that will aid not only the student, but also the academic public of tutors and lecturers. For example, each chapter begins with a brief 'real-life' vignette to grab the reader's interest and encourage a questioning and reflexive approach to the topic. Key concepts are highlighted in bold in the text and defined in separate margin paragraphs as well as appearing in a glossary at the end of the book. Each chapter also contains 'Sociology spotlight' breakout boxes that offer brief summaries of cutting-edge sociological empirical studies and debates. End-of-chapter material includes 'Sociological reflections' (brief self-directed or class-based icebreakers that help students apply their learning and highlight the relevance of sociological analysis), a summary of main points, discussion questions, recommended . . .