Sociology: An Introduction

Sociology: An Introduction

Sociology: An Introduction

Sociology: An Introduction

Excerpt

In my office in Barrows Hall at the University of California, Berkeley, one and one half large shelves of the bookcase are filled with books with very similar titles: Sociology; Introduction to Sociology; Basic Readings in Sociology; and others. These books have accumulated during the past dozen years that encompass my graduate-training and teaching career. I have bought only a few of them. Most of them were sent to me by their publishers, in the hope that I would use them for an introductory course, or that I would perhaps persuade a colleague to use them. If I had made a point of systematically collecting introductory works published in the past decade, I imagine they would occupy twice the space in my study. On the basis of this little survey of my library, I have concluded that the publication of textbooks is a very thriving business in America, and that there are many books to choose from if one wishes to introduce himself to sociology.

Now I am publishing a book that will find its place among the others. Because there are so many on the shelves already, and because I believe this volume differs sharply from almost all of them, my initial obligation is to indicate to my sociological colleagues and to students the ways in which this text differs from the dozens of others that have appeared in the past couple of decades. I see four key differences.

1. Traditional textbooks, like the introductory courses in which they are used, are very comprehensive in their coverage of sociological concepts and information. In some ways this is a positive feature. But a frequent cost of comprehensiveness is a degree of superficiality. Consequently, the student is likely to emerge from his introductory course with a nodding acquaintance with a diversity of sociological materials, but with too little grasp of the subtleties of sociological theory and research and too little . . .

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