Contexts

sociology for the public

Books

Sociological takes on recent news and research.

Schooling Elites

Lisa M. Stulberg reviews two new books on education and the creation of each new generation of American elites: Shamus Rahman Khan's Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School, and Amy J. Binder and Kate Wood's Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives. Read More

The New Class War

Jeff Manza reviews three recent books and their takes on the coming (or current) class war so many believe is tearing America apart: Charles Murray's Coming Apart: The State of White America, Timothy Noah's The Great Divergence: America’s Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It, and Christopher Hayes's Twilight of the Elites: After Meritocracy. Read More

Living “Single”

Sociologist Pamela J. Smock reviews two recent monographs on the topic of singlehood. One, Going Solo, is authored by sociologist Eric Klinenberg and the other, Single: Arguments for the Uncoupled, is authored by English professor Michael Cobb. Read More

Marx on Finance

Fredric Jameson’s new reading of Marx’s Capital, vol. 1 uses Marx’s account of the accumulation of capital in the form of producer goods to argue that a rising rate of structural unemployment is a fundamental tendency of capitalism as Marx understood, thereby challenging a “workerist” view of how Marx though capitalism could eventually end. Scholar Robert Meister argues that Jameson fails to grasp the role financial thinking in Marx’s account of the dual role of producer goods as both means of production and financial assets, and uses this account to sketch a view of the role of financial asset markets in production that builds on a Marxian foundation. Read More

Is Marriage for Anyone?

Two recent books on marriage—Is Marriage for White People? by Ralph Richard Banks and Unhitched by Judith Stacey—are considered in this review essay by sociologist Micki McGee. Banks argues that the decline of marriage among African American women constitutes a social problem that could be remedied if more women from this group opted for interracial marriages. Stacey's cross-cultural study contends that marriage is an institution that attempts the near impossible task of reconciling the goals of domesticity with those of erotic life, and that in the process an extraordinary range of marital arrangements have emerged. Taken together these arguments ask us to consider who marriage serves. Read More

What They’re Watching

A "list" of what six social scientists are watching on television and film. Read More

Beyond “Post 9/11”

Sociologist Erik Love reviews the books Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire and Terrifying Muslims. Each move beyond “post 9/11” explanations for anti-Muslim sentiment, showing how Islamophobia is best understood not as a temporary backlash, but rather as stemming from longstanding and durable forms of racial bigotry and colonialism. Read More

The Chattering Class

Sociologist Michael Schudson reviews Ronald Jacobs and Eleanor Townsley’s The Space of Opinion. He argues that this full-length study of opinion journalism in the United States makes a strong case that the mix of diverse opinions, formats, and personalities in our era of op-ed pages, talk radio, and cable TV helps engage citizens with politics and improves democratic deliberation. Read More

Religious Origins

Eduardo Mendieta reviews the book Religion in Human Evolution. He reflects on Robert Bellah's massive book on the role of religion in human evolution up to the Axial Period, and the emergence of second order cognitive and moral reflexivity. Read More

Breakthrough Books: Education

Scholars sound off about the books that shaped how we think about education. Read More