This is a book about big issues. Big questions about world politics, environmental degradation, social and economic inequality and cultural change inform debates in the social sciences. Recent developments range from concerns about global terrorism, which has replaced conflicts between nation states as a major cause of anxiety across the entire world, to the growth of transnational corporations. Change is taking place with a new intensity through the progress of technological developments. These are issues which have arisen as a result of some of the major changes that have taken place in recent years in power relationships, in global politics and economics as well as through the development of new technologies and working practices. In a sense this is also a book about little issues, in that the debates that are the focus of the social sciences are also the concerns of individuals in our everyday lives. These are the big issues that concern us in our daily routines. These everyday matters include our sense of who we are in our exchanges with friends, family and in our local communities and at work. Dealing with health, welfare and ill health, shopping and in the leisure activities in which we might engage, all matter, as well as the global, big issues relating to big business, corporate finance, international politics, conflicts between states, environmental degradation and risk. My concern in this book is to show the links between the two, between global events and everyday experience and, in particular, to introduce some of the ways in which the social sciences help us make sense of everyday life and offer different ways of understanding what matters. These are the big issues, the things that matter, the areas of experience which are changing and those about which there is most debate and contention. The social sciences offer critical ways of thinking and of making sense of social, political, cultural and economic life. The approach taken in this book is to highlight some of the concepts of the social sciences and ways of classifying and understanding different social phenomena and to introduce some of the questions that the social sciences pose. Knowing which questions to ask is a most important stage in the process of doing social science. Getting started involves asking questions.
Change, and especially the speed with which some changes in the social, economic, political and cultural patterns of our daily lives are taking place, have