understanding people in their social worlds


Sociological takes on recent news and research.

Dissonance and Discovery

Brooke Harrington talks with economic sociologist David Stark about his new book, The Sense of Dissonance, and its reflection on his 30 years of ethnographic field work. Stark advocates the study of situations (rather than institutions) to learn how people understand their worlds and the issues that are most important to them. Read More

Saintly Mission or Sins of Commission?

Rodney Stark’s The Case for the Crusades argues that the Crusades were a justified defense against Muslim aggression, rather than purely brutal colonialism at work. Reviewer Evelyn Bush addresses this analysis and concludes that the book raises good questions that make it a good read. Read More

Pills and the Pursuit of Normalcy

Whether happiness or height, what constitutes normal has been increasingly defined in medical terms. Two books, Happy Pills in America and Normal At Any Cost, trace how pills such as Prozac and human growth hormone have reshaped our health and cultural definitions of pathology. Read More

Happiness and the Social Sciences

Happiness has long been a popular subject but increasingly social scientists are weighing in. The two books reviewed here---Happiness: A Revolution in Economics and The Psychology of Happiness: A Good Human Life ---broaden our collective understanding of this sought-after state of being. Read More

Rethinking German Genocide

One of the enduring questions following World War II is how so many ordinary German citizens could support or tolerate genocide. The books reviewed here shed light on how Germans have come to terms (or not) with this dark past. Read More

Intellectual Icons

Margaret Mead and Buckminster Fuller are two examples of intellectuals who had influence beyond the ivory tower. Recent books chronicling each icon's career demonstrate diverse means to achieving influence and renown in the public realm. Read More

The Credit Mines

Millions of Americans have suffered since the credit bubble burst in 2008. Two books describe how the housing and credit card markets rose and fell over the past century: Alissa Katz's Our Lot and Charles R. Geisst's Collateral Damage: The Marketing of Consumer Debt to America. Their analyses reveal the hazards inherent in pursuing the American Dream. Read More

Adoption, White Women, and the Keeping of Culture

International adoption has been a growing trend in the U.S. in recent years. Casey Brienza discusses "culture keeping" through three books written by white adoptive mothers. Her discussion highlights the challenges inherent in adoptive family formation in a society where race, ethnicity, and national culture are assumed to go hand-in-hand. Read More

Ending The War On The War On Terror

Surprisingly few sociologists have studied the War on Terror despite its wide-ranging social consequences. In this review, Mathieu Deflem discusses two books from other disciplines that might serve as good starting points for the sociological study of security and terrorism. Read More

The War Society

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the ensuing War on Terror have no doubt impacted political culture in the U.S., but two recent books present very different viewpoints on how. Peter Alexander Meyers' Civic War and the Corruption of the Citizen explores the War on Terror as an extension of the Cold War, while Mahmood Mamdani's Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror sees a new and disturbing logic of foreign policy emerging. Read More