Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World
Pub Date: 2016
ISBN 13: 978-1-9461352-4-7
Publisher: University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing
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The book appropriately covers the most recurrent topics in sociology undergraduate courses in 22 chapters and more than 800 pages. It presents the read more
The book appropriately covers the most recurrent topics in sociology undergraduate courses in 22 chapters and more than 800 pages. It presents the tenets of the sociological perspective and the sociological research first and goes on to explore the topics. While doing so, the author stresses pertinent concepts and theories, with a fair presentation of the different approaches within the field. There is a concern with nuances in the definitions and comparison of different perspectives. Alongside concepts and theories, the book provides numerous examples and real-life scenarios, keeping the content close to students. The student is stimulated to exercise the content of each chapter by reflecting on a few questions and/or connecting the discussion to their past or current experiences. Unfortunately, there is no index or glossary, which would be useful in a book quite comprehensive (and long) as this one.
To the best of my knowledge, the theoretical frameworks presented by the author are correct. Some chapters simplify some ideas, which is common—and even inevitable—in a textbook. For example, social democracy is presented as a combination of the best of capitalism and the best of socialism, and masculinity would make men miss “the joy of parenting that women are much more likely to experience” (p. 434) because of their lessened involvement in child-rearing. At some rare moments, the simplification can lead to misinterpretation—e.g., Karl Marx’s alienation of work is presented as being balanced out by the friendships developed at the workplace. The author does a great job in carefully presenting controversial topics.
The content is relatively up-to-date. Some references are relevant to the present day (e.g., a picture of Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential campaign to illustrate the active participation of the elderly today), but some other references could be introduced to refresh the content (e.g., the reference to the 2009 Iranian protests could be paired with the events of the Arab Spring). Statistics information should be reviewed since some are new and others are not. However, the text is indeed arranged in a way that any updates are easy to implement since the arguments do not get compromised by the details of the examples.
The text is highly accessible and introduces a sociological lexicon while avoiding jargoning.
There is consistency in terminology and framework throughout the entire book.
It is possible to adopt the entire book (though the content is so comprehensive that it is unlikely one can cover it all in one semester) or assign specific chapters per class. The book is self-referential, and the units do follow an internal sequence—which I take as positive. However, the chapters stand on their own as well, especially since all of them have the same structure: learning objectives, content/discussion, key takeaways, review questions, reflection, references.
The whole book flows very nicely, especially for the consistency in the organization of each chapter— learning objectives, content/discussion, key takeaways, review questions, reflection, references. The topics unfold in a logical fashion, both within each chapter and in the entire book. Interestingly, the organization of the chapters presented by the author enforced their view of sociology as a discipline to provide knowledge to promote social change and benefit society.
The PDF version has no significant problem. Page break could be improved, and pictures could be centered (in my file, pictures align to the left). The highlight of essential concepts in blue is very helpful and the regular use of different colors in the boxes presenting the learning objectives, key takeaways, questions, and other subsections makes the chapters easy to follow. I cannot say about the other versions available for download.
The writing style is accessible to students in postsecondary education, and just two grammatical errors were spotted.
Cultural awareness and sensibility are displayed in the author’s line of argumentation and enforced as one of the features of the sociological perspective. There are numerous examples of “Learning From Other Societies” and references to other countries, different races, ethnicities, and populations. However, the book assumes that the reader/student is American—at some points, born and raised in the United States, overlooking that a considerable portion of the student population in the United States is international. While living and studying in American institutions, international students have different experiences, with several reasons for having moved permanently or temporarily to the United States. There is also the complex case of the sons and daughters of immigrants, who are usually between two (or more) worlds. Some of the international students might get discouraged to read a book in which the interlocutor is overtly pictured as someone different from them. The picture of a lynched man should be removed as well as the term “transgendered.”
The most interesting feature of this book is its commitment to public sociology. The author strongly advocates for sociology as critical thinking, and while undoubtedly stressing the importance of concepts and theories, the author also presents the role of sociology in tackling the most immediate and relevant problems of our times.
The book covers 22 chapters and runs 837 pages, so it's quite comprehensive in the topics it covers. This is NOT a brief or essentials version of an read more
The book covers 22 chapters and runs 837 pages, so it's quite comprehensive in the topics it covers. This is NOT a brief or essentials version of an Introduction to Sociology textbook. Topics that are often combined (politics/economy) each receive their own chapter. The index is listed by chapter and section, but there is no glossary of terms, subject content, or names. The chapter on race/ethnicity does not include the typical brief discussion of the major racial/ethnic groups in the United States. Sexuality is only covered in one section on sexual orientation in the gender chapter.
I did not see any major errors in the book. There are a number of statistics used, accompanied by citations and a reference list at the end of each chapter. All photos include a citation as well. In the family chapter, I did not care for the coverage of endogamy, exogamy and homogamy (heterogamy is not mentioned). Based on my experience with the terms from several other Introduction to Sociology and Sociology of Family books, the explanations were not completely accurate. I am reluctant to call the coverage of same sex marriage inaccurate because it was accurate for the time the book was published, but it's very outdated. It states that only five states in the USA permit same-sex marriage (in 2010).
The book is already several years old. The main points will hold the test of time, but sociology relies on current statistics to be relevant and some of these numbers are already too old. The same sex marriage section information is irrelevant. The section on school violence has a line that says "fortunately school violence has declined during the past decade" which is no longer relevant.
I found the book to be quite readable. It is written in an appropriate prose for first and second year college students. I did not notice any overly technical language.
I believe the text is quite consistent in terminology, framework, and the voice of the writer. If there is more than one author writing the text, you cannot tell.
Each chapter is broken into sections or modules which are clearly identified in both the table of context and within the chapter. The chapters could be covered in any order and one could leave out chapters if needed.
The organization of each chapter is quite consistent, where you have an introduction to the topic, coverage of theories, application of topic in the US, and end of chapter review
There are several links within the chapter material and in the reference list. I had no trouble using these as needed. However, the vocabulary words for each chapter are highlighted in the same exact color in the text and are not links. This is confusing. If you have one color for links and maybe just boldface the vocabulary terms, it would solve the problem.
No overt grammar errors were spotted in the review of this textbook.
There is a actual photo on page 336 of a lynched man. I think this is insensitive and it could easily be removed without changing the content of the section. In the chapter on religion, the term cult is used, but with no reference to the alternative term, new religious movement. Chapter 11 can leave out the terms transsexual and transvestite. They can have derogatory connotations.
Chapter 1 - I do not like the inclusion of social exchange theory as one of the main sociological theories. It is not included in most introduction to sociology texts. Chapter 11 - Transgender should not be included under sexual orientation. Transgender is about gender, not sexual orientation. General - an academic text should never cite Wikipedia as a source.
This text is more comprehensive than most Introductory texts I have read in Sociology. I am hard-pressed to think of an area that is not addressed in the book. read more
This text is more comprehensive than most Introductory texts I have read in Sociology. I am hard-pressed to think of an area that is not addressed in the book.
The text appears without bias to me. I am sensitive to that, and I do not see a paradigmatic leaning in the book, which is impressive. While the data appear accurate, many displays of data need to be updated. Also, some terminology is outdated, especially with regard to transgender people.
While I read the first several chapters, I kept track of just some of the times that ten years ago (and sometimes twenty years ago) was treated as "current." For example, the US Presidential election between Obama and McCain, GSS data on attitudes toward African Americans and women,crime rates as of 2008, incarceration rate as of 2009, attitude toward social services for the poor, racial and ethnic composition of the poor, trends in global income distribution, average life expectancy around the world (2004), and attitude toward interracial marriage among whites (2008). Conceptually, the only major problems I saw regarded transgender people.
The text is relatively jargon-free. I find it accessible and engaging. The sentence structure is varied, and the paragraphs are well-constructed. The examples given keep the reader's interest as well.
There is great consistency throughout the book. I find it appealing.
The book is very long and there is no way that all of the book could be read in one semester. Therefore, students will have to skip some chapters. It would be nice if there were a way to click on each chapter separately. However, if readers have the Table of Contents in front of them, they can use "Find" to get to the next chapter if need be.
The text flows very nicely. The author makes reference to information and concepts in past chapters throughout the book, which I think really ties it together well. After all, social lives are not as easily broken up into sections as textbooks have to be, and ideas can be built upon and reinforced as they are here.
The charts and displays look great! The only major problem I see with the book's interface is the number of URLs which are outdated. Here are just the ones I detected in the first several chapters: page 27, page 40, page 55, page 92, and page 168.
The book appears to be written very well. I found few if any errors in grammar. The chapters are very readable and engaging.
The book is quite inclusive and not at all offensive. I think the author represents sociological thinking very well, and models how to look at these issues - some of which are quite controversial - in a nonjudgmental and curious way, just as they ought to be.
Like many introductory textbooks, this book covers all of the core topics of sociology in short, relatively straightforward ways. It is extremely read more
Like many introductory textbooks, this book covers all of the core topics of sociology in short, relatively straightforward ways. It is extremely similar to most other textbooks in this respect, and does not necessarily provide any novel or new insights that would make these chapters stand apart from competing texts. It does, though, present most of the topics that faculty teach introductory sociology through to provide a basis for students to move on to other upper-level sociology courses (with a basic understanding of core concepts, theories, methods, and social issues). To be fair, as a free and open textbook, this is reasonable supplemental reading for faculty to selectively use, though I am not sure how much more students will get from it once these key ideas are discussed/presented in class. The comprehensiveness of these texts, historically, was problematic because rarely can faculty teach all of these topics (and probably shouldn't), at the cost of depth and nuance.
I would say that the book is very accurate in its use of the core concepts and presentation of data. From time to time, I did have some differences in opinion in how best to present a certain issue (e.g., how medicalization is presented), but overall the references to the classics are all there and presented well. There is, conversely, much less emphasis on several of the newer, most recent developments in the field, for the sake of presenting the foundations of the sociological imagination.
The content is generally up to date, but I think that it will be exceedingly difficult to update that vast amount of data provided throughout the chapters. I thoroughly enjoy the empirical emphasis, but it is very data heavy. Using this text will require the instructor to draw the theoretical, conceptual, and methodological components from the readings and update the statistics provided for relevant (and selected) examples. This can be problematic for faculty because they themselves will have to seek out and collect, and then present data similarly as the textbook. One advantage is how clearly the text's material is cited. Also, it is close to 10 years old, which may dissuade faculty from adopting it upon initial review.
I find the book highly readable. At no point would I think that an early undergraduate student would have any difficulty reading this new conceptual framework. To that end, I think that the book would also be useful for any non-native English speakers who may have difficulty learning sociology (and its often jargon-filled texts) with (if) only a modest command of the English language.
The book's format is very consistent. After reading it for a while, you come to cognitively expect the content in a particualr sequence. This can be very beneficial for introductory students, even though it may constrain the development of their sociological imagination. To balance this, though, the more personalized scenarios at the end of chapters do make students engage with the material to solve an issue with the sociological skills and knowledge they just read about, which is a great form of learning, using, then remembering.
I think that this varies according to topic. For example, the first chapter on understanding society seems disjointed to me. The emphasis on Mills and Durkheim is a classic approach to getting students to think sociologically, but a basic definition of "society" is missing, and it jumps around through social structure, debunking, and public issues/private troubles. I have a similar issue with the chapters on society and environment and politics and government. Many other chapters are generally collated well, allowing faculty to choose more material that reflects the organizational, theoretical, structural, practical, or stratified elements of different substantive topics.
I would that the topics are presented in a clear fashion, but I'm sure how any textbooks can be deemed having a "logical flow" to them. The vast, vast majority follow the same format, presenting the sociological imagination through Durkheim and Mills, then theory (if its own chapter), then methods, and a blend of the core social processes: culture, socialization, and social control. Beyond that, arguably, it probably wouldn't matter what order the rest of the chapters were in, unless you were deliberately trying to move from the local to the global or to emphasize social movements and social change.
As a PDF, you can easily zoom in to see much more clearly some of the maps, for example, that are difficult to read on a page-by-age basis (page 6 map on suicide rates, for example). As a web-based document, it is more challenging at times to most clearly view and use some of the visuals. I could not navigate the PDF without having to identify page numbers that connect to PDF page numbers, as links within the pages to other chapters did not take you directly to those chapters. The bookmarks and other options in the PDF, though, were helpful to navigate quickly to sections and/or specific pages. Overall, not too difficult.
I found it grammatically sound and easy to read.
I think that the book does attempt to provide more racial, gender, and intersectionality approaches than other books, but none provide due diligence to the many sociologists of color and women sociologists (as well as Queer Theorists and others) that are a more accurate reflection of the totality of sociological thinking. It does make use of examples from many cultural and racial backgrounds, and focuses on disparities in ways that are demeaning or unintentionally stigmatizing. I would suggest a trigger warning or two, especially when showing images of lynching.
The book’s title suggests that it also motivates the student to act on their newly gained sociological imagination. This is something that (historically) many introductory textbooks that I have seen don’t explicitly provide. Students will often say "this is interesting, but seems idealistic --- what can I do?” One standout at the end of the chapters in this textbook that I enjoyed were the "Sociology Making a Difference" sections that showed how the insight that the sociological perspective provides can and is being put into practice to alleviate social problems. In this way, it does use the objective, evidence-based knowledge to alleviate social injustices, which I find refreshing. Though the book's defining theme is not social activism, these snippets are motivating. I would add more material on how sociology is increasingly an interdisciplinary field of scholarship. For example, in the chapter on environment, there are great references to Bullard and other classic pieces in environmental justice and environmental racism. At this point, the chapter could talk more about the growth in interdisciplinary work with environmental and other natural scientists. A topic that is sorely lacking is climate change. If I read it correctly, a single paragraph on "global climate change" is not sufficient, given the crucial role that sociologists play and will increasingly play in the coming decades and centuries with forced migration, increased disparities in health, sea level rise, and other fundamental climate change impacts that are radically re-structuring global and local societies. A final topic that could be included is science in society.
The textbook contains all topics and issue areas usually covered in an introductory text and much more! It is highly comprehensive. There are 22 read more
The textbook contains all topics and issue areas usually covered in an introductory text and much more! It is highly comprehensive. There are 22 chapters in total, with nearly half being outside of the "standard" curriculum, This should give professors a good deal of choice in further focus areas. The book is almost overwhelming in length, coming in at 848 pages in PDF format and just over 3,000 for the iBooks version, and I can imagine this causing some anxiety among students. The length is mitigated by its portability and navigability. Also, assuming that the entire textbook would not be covered in one semester, students wishing to print could do so by chapter or section.
To the best of my knowledge, the content is accurate. That said, as discussed below, statistics and some examples date quickly, so frequent updates will be necessary. I also felt that the presentation of the material, even controversial issues, was even-handed and unbiased. This encourages students to think about and dig into these matters rather than simply react. I thought this was particularly well done.
The book is full of current references, examples, and statistics, which engage the reader and make it easier for students to relate to the material. This aspect should also contributes to students understanding sociology as relevant to their lives and the world around them However, it already feels dated in places. The structure of the book and use of the the information within the text should make for straightforward updates, but it is a lot, especially in light of the breadth of topics covered and the pace at which some of these areas are changing. That said, this will always be a trade-off.
The text is clear and accessible. Concepts are explained well, and jargon is largely avoided. The writing strikes a good balance between being at an appropriate level for college students and understandable by students with no previous background in sociology.
The book is consistent in terms of terminology, formatting, and frameworks applied throughout the text.
The book is separated into chapters, each with three or four sections plus questions and review points. While these flow as a comprehensive whole, the chapters also function as standalone units. These could be easily rearranged or used in a piecemeal fashion. Indeed, given the wide range of non-standard chapters and length of the book, it seems designed expressly for this purpose.
The first chapters of the text are ordered in a similar manner to most introductory texts, which makes good sense. In this way, students are introduced to basic concepts, theories, and vocabulary and develop some mastery before moving on to more topic-driven chapters. The chapters themselves are also organized in a clear and sensible way, and the sections are of a good length and substantive density so as to be digestible by students. The Key Takeaways sections and review questions encourage students to concretize and apply what they have just read.
I read through the online, iBook (epub), and PDF formats. Each of the first two has an interactive table of contents, which makes navigating such a large text a breeze. The PDF was less obviously user friendly, and I found myself distracted by having to scroll back and forth. Images and charts were clear and appealing in all formats reviewed.
I did not notice any major (or minor) errors in the text.
Overall, I did not find the text to be culturally insensitive or offensive. It does a better job than most I have seen of incorporating non-Western examples and paradigms. That said, I would be careful to decouple sexual orientation and gender identity. While these have sometimes historically been lumped together in the social sciences, this should really no longer be the case. I would also like to see a slightly more nuanced discussion of the relationship between race and mass incarceration than is include at present.
I quite like the format and tone of this textbook and would strongly consider adopting parts of it for my own classes. One thought, however, is that I would have liked to have a chapter on Immigration included. In a book which casts such a wide net, one might expect to see such a chapter, especially given its growing relevance. But the book overall provides a solid foundation to build on and supplement, and the ease with it can be adapted to the needs of a particular course is highly appealing. I particularly appreciate the inclusion of international issues and global sociology!
I am a political theorist, not a sociologist. So I may not be the best qualified to comment on the comprehensiveness of this text. That said, going read more
I am a political theorist, not a sociologist. So I may not be the best qualified to comment on the comprehensiveness of this text. That said, going back to my own undergraduate days, this book appears to cover a lot of key topics that you'd expect to see in an introduction-level sociology textbook. From the introduction, onwards, the book moves at a nice, accessible pace, posing useful rhetorical questions along the way, in a logical sequence of topics. The book pauses at key moments to make important meta-theoretical distinctions, presenting a framework early on that helps students understand the difference between macro/structural and micro/constructivist accounts.
The book seems sometimes to fall into inaccuracy, possibly as a result poorly-conceived balancing in the tradeoff between the necessary simplicity required of an introductory text, and theoretical rigor. Classic example: it claims that Marx is unable to explain why there was never a revolution in the United States. This is described as a "shortcoming." But of course Marx often talked about the material and ideological obstacles to the emergence of class consciousness. He talked, for example, about how the proletarian 'row house' dwellings of Manchester had tiny gardens, and these were a way of dissipating class tension in Britain.
Overall, yes. The book is written in a balanced and useful manner that makes me imagine it would be dependable text for a course, well into the future. Chapter 2.3, on research design, for example, contains a great example of how the book uses tables to break down and distill different facets of a theory, competing theories, or complex aspects of a research methodology.
There are problems, to me, in terms of clarity. For example, while I appreciated the effort made to distinguish in this chapter between the conditions of laboratory experiments carried out by the natural sciences, and those carried out by sociology, I do feel this could have been articulated more sharply. Perhaps reference to Karl Popper's theory of interference reflexivity or something, could have been useful. This is not a hard concept for undergrads to grasp. At times like this in the book, it seemed clear to me that the text has a slight bias in favor of methodological naturalism, and shied away from post-positivist perspectives.
Yes, to me, this book seems professional and rigorous in its consistency
Yes, the use of section headings is nice and clear (even in this e-book version I was reading... which is, lets face it, not always a strength of ebooks). Chapters typically have between 4-6 sections, amounting to about 6-7 paragraphs, of about 60-80 words, each.
The book offers a solid progression of topics, from the micro to the macro, while suggesting (in a strongly implicit sense, I would argue*), that macro issues are more amenable to "functionalist" and "conflict"-style perspectives. *What I mean here is that it is not really made clear in the structure of the book that this mode of presentation is linked in any specific sense to the logical differentiation of the theories. In this sense, the book seems to side-step an important political question; for example, to what extent are "rational-choice" models ideological? To what extent do models ideologically screen out from their "worlds" the things they don't want to see or talk about? The book makes it seem like "this theory is useful and this level, and that theory is useful at that level," as if somehow all combined these theories could make a more complete theory of the world. But this is a highly contestable presumption!
My version was an "ePub" formatted e-book, which I viewed on an Apple iPad. The book functioned in a way that I expected it to. The images, graphs and tables contained within in the book "popped up" as would be expected. However, while the external links to online images, like flickr, worked well, I found that some of the bibliographical links were broken and, in this sense, need updating. I understand this is an old book, but to be taken seriously in classroom, it should be updated so that the links point to fresh courses.* Example: “Werner, N. (2010, April 2)” at the end of chapter 5, was a broken link. (I found similar such examples throughout the text).
Grammar is fine. No problems.
I did observe in the chapter on gender that while the text offers some praise for the development of identity politics on University campuses in the 1970s (we learn of a a grumpy, bigoted “biology professor” who told female advises that they’d be better off remaining housewives). But the text makes no effort to problematize the rise of identity politics, in this regard. Absent from the text, for example, is any consideration of the extent to which identity politics is commensurate with many of ideological presumptions of neoliberalism, and how it can lead to problems “safe spaces,” hoopla over “trigger warnings,” “virtue-signaling,” “no platforming” of conservative views, etc. These phenomena can be politically stultifying, from a Marxist perspective, confusing individual virtue for politics, and diverting attention from key material issues like poverty, globalization, elite influence over government, corporate monopolization, etc.
The text is obviously an older one, that has been reprinted as an open source text. This is an admirable gesture, and the text has the aura of a solid, professionally-written classroom resource. However, I do have two key concerns. The skirting around the challenge of post-positivism, and the presence of broken links. The former is an ideological issue, which may or may not be a problem for a professor, depending on their intentions in the classroom. The latter is a more substantive problem, and may result in students feeling that they have been assigned an inferior "free" product in lieu of a professional, up-to-date text.
This text has an expansive approach to sociology. It covers gender issues, terrorism, race and class inequalities, political organizations, addresses read more
This text has an expansive approach to sociology. It covers gender issues, terrorism, race and class inequalities, political organizations, addresses medical sociology, terrorism, the importance of social institutions, and the list goes on. I did not see the index or glossary. The last page of the text said "send supplemental materials."
I would not use this text for one simple reason, and there are minor issues that follow after that. As a sociologist, I would very much like to see the American Sociological Association Style Guide used for citations and references. It would appear that maybe it is APA style they are using. However, if we are to teach writing and research, it is important that standards are followed in the textbook that the students use! There were multiple errors, using commas when none should be present; putting the ( ) after the period at the end of the sentence, etc. Someone needs to proof read a bit more carefully! I think this sends a message that the writing is less credible because their attention to detail is lacking.
I very much like the content; however, there are way too many photos of Barack Obama and there are not enough photos of prominent women. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say this book was written by men, as it gives off more of a patriarchal vibe than it does a matriarchal vibe, or a neutral one. For example, in chapter 11 the authors present a pie chart (a really horrible way to display data, but OK, these are introductory students) that identifies whether women and men disagree or agree with the statement that women should stay at home. Please display something relevant and worth talking about! In some ways, there are references to this very patriarchal approach scattered across many chapters. This kind of antiquated thinking keeps women oppressed, and I do not care whether they are using it as an historical example or not! I think an introductory textbook in sociology can do better than this!
I like accessible prose. It is straightforward and engaging. It is devoid of jargon and technical language. I have no issues or concerns about the clarity of the book.
I think it's consistency is fine, although as I mentioned it seems consistently on the mysogynistic side.
Yes, this text has chunked up the sections for each chapter nicely. I would recommend renaming the last sections of each chapter, i.e., they are sometimes identified as "end of chapter review" or "using sociology." These two terms are inconsistent. Instead I would title the section "Critical Thinking" or something similar. The titles they have now do not loan themselves easily to wanting to explore the questions, and they are good questions. The sociological imagination requires independent, reflective thinking, and changing the titles of these last boxes may help promote that.
The flow of the chapters is generally good, although the chapter on FAMILY should come after gender/gender inequality, etc. I also think the family violence section would benefit from a discussion of ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) because we know these are connected, maybe even causal to, fentanyl use and repeat offending. Chapter 7 needs a section on Victimology, or at least the term should be introduced. It also should briefly introduce integrated theories, as that seems to be where the discipline of criminology is headed, combining medical/psych/soc into one theory. The traditional ones are there, and they are fine, but a short intro into where the discipline is headed with the medical community raises new issues about "objectivity," etc. CH. 10 should include a short discussion on implicit bias. Chapter 13 needs a section on work and family. Chapter 16 would do well to mention the pros and cons of bilingual education.
The photos are good, although as I said, I would appreciate seeing more women in higher status roles. The only photo that was not clear for me was the one that appeared at the beginning of ch. 8 on measuring poverty. It was hard to see, one of a trailer park, I believe.
No issues, although ASA style is preferred.
As stated previously, more women in positions of power would be nice to see in the text. I don't think opening a book that showcases Barak Obama and John McCain are relevant any longer. As mentioned, there were many photos of Obama, so there is an opportunity to switch a few out. I would also like to see more diversity in the photos, including transgender individuals.
One other comment I forgot to mention is to make issue of social media and teen suicide. Some recent studies suggest that screen time for our teens actually has a depressive effect, and suicide is increasing due to real isolation. I think this fits in nicely with the authors' themes of how we are all social animals and need social support. Social media is having the opposite effect. In particular, for the chapters on politics, we see unfolding undue influence over our elections that is unprecedented in the history of the United States. Fringe ideas are allowed to become mainstream through the use of social media, and this is incredibly problematic. Again, going back to the sociological imagination, I think that it is important to discuss the peril social media platforms have not only for our social support but for our larger community and democratic systems as a whole.
This text provides a remarkably thorough treatment of sociological theory, research methods, and social institutions. The text incorporates classical read more
This text provides a remarkably thorough treatment of sociological theory, research methods, and social institutions. The text incorporates classical theory prominently into the exploration of all social institutions with learning objectives reflecting the application of both theory and practice. To this end, features embedded into each chapter include application to current events, contexts outside of the United States, and analysis of social policy. In addition to the topical content of each chapter, a healthy number of review questions and scenarios prompt students to think more deeply about the ideas. The text lacks a glossary or index and bibliographic information is referenced at the end of each chapter. Additionally, some versions of the text--notably the pdf--do not have a Table of Contents.
The content of the text appears to have been accurate at the time it was written. However, some crucial topics are out-of-date. For example, the text does not reflect social changes with respect to same-sex marriage, deferred action for children of immigrants, or social movements in response to the criminal justice system that have occurred over the last five years.
This text does not emphasize facts and figures (that quickly grow dated), but rather focuses on the overarching objective of applying social theory to institutions and practice. With that in mind, most chapters remain relevant even after laws and statistics have changed. While the text is certainly not fresh with hyper contemporary illustrates and vignettes, the consistent application of conflict theory, functionalism, and symbolic interaction to numerous, unwavering social institutions ensures its applicability.
The language is accessible to most postsecondary learners and the author adequately explains complex topics. For example, the text provides context and explanation for how race is a social construct; the text provides scaffolding for students unfamiliar with jargon and technical terms in the first course in the discipline.
The text appears to be consistent in its use of sociological language and in the consistent structure of chapters carried through the entire volume.
Once students grow familiar with the theoretical perspectives introduced early in the text, then the remaining chapters can generally stand alone in any sequence. This is particularly true of the social institutions chapter. However, students with no theoretical background would likely struggle even with these as theory is integrated throughout the entire text. Content within each chapter is structured in digestible sections so that topical excerpts can be assigned; few, if any, vignettes or scenarios are carried from one chapter to the next.
Each chapter is predictable, characterized by an introductory (often historical) section, a theoretical section, and then several topical sections. Each section ends with a brief review and set of Socratic questions. Tables, often contrasting three theoretical perspectives, are used effectively throughout the text as are headings and subheadings. Reference pages follow each chapter such that a topical search for further reading is quite easy.
The interface varies widely by format. The pdf, like other downloadable versions, is difficult to navigate with no table of contents or index. Given that the text is over 700 pages, it's nearly impossible to flip through pages and quite difficult to jump to a particular chapter or page. The web version, though, is much easier to navigate. A table of contents with subsections floats in the sidebar with direct navigation capabilities. In the web version, the full text of each section appears on a single page which aides organization and navigation. There are no dynamic features to the text, though, and the embedded links when other chapters are referenced within the text is more confusing than helpful.
The text is well written and maintains a scholarly tone. Few errors in spelling or grammar are present.
Some sensitive topics in the text are handled clumsily. In some cases, the treatment might generate feelings of discomfort among the reader. Most notably, the text uses the word "transgendered" rather than the adjective "transgender" and incorrectly identifies this gender identity as a sexual orientation. The text problematically defines "transsexual" and categories "transvestites" as transgender and generally engages in poor sociology in the introduction of sexual orientation and gender identity. The text makes zero references to intersectionality.
This text is quite similar to other introductory texts in sociology in content and format. From my perspective, its accessibility as an open textbook is the only thing that differentiates it from other texts in this genre.
Most all introductory textbooks include the same chapters, and often in the same order! This text includes all of the chapters one would expect and read more
Most all introductory textbooks include the same chapters, and often in the same order! This text includes all of the chapters one would expect and require in an introductory sociology text. The theories are presented in a balanced way and the various perspectives are included as they apply to each topic. I did not find an index or glossary at all, and that was unfortunate. The current online text we are using has a glossary with each section, that highlights key terms. I find that students appreciate having that, either available with each section, included in margins, or at least in an index/glossary at the end of the text. Finally, while technology/media is covered within topics in various places, with the growing influence of technology and social media, I would have liked more specific coverage of those factors as they are relevant to socialization and social interaction.
I could find no problems with the accuracy of the material presented. I also feel that the issues--even controversial ones--were presented in an unbiased way that invites students to consider issues and various viewpoints.
With a discipline like sociology, things can change quickly sometimes and it is impossible for any text to be 100% up-to-date once published. A good example is with regard to same-sex marriage. Information in this text needed to be updated with regard to the recent Supreme Court ruling. With material arranged in sections, it would be relatively easy to make modifications as necessary to sections that need it, while leaving other sections unaltered. It would be ideal if those modifications were immediately translated to online versions being used by instructors.
The text is written in an easy-to-read, student-friendly way. That said, I do feel it is a college-level text, appropriate for a freshman or sophomore-level introductory course. Terms and concepts are incorporated with examples that make them relatable and easy to understand.
I always appreciate when a text highlights the various theoretical perspectives in a balanced way, and includes them as they apply to each major topic area. This text did that consistently. Features like "Making a Difference" and "Learning from Other Societies" are also included throughout the text, and provide good examples for students of how sociology can be useful in analyzing social issues and working to alleviate social problems.
Most introductory texts include more information/topics than I normally cover in a semester, so it's nice to be able to customize the material as I like. This text allows for that, and allows for combining sections from readings from different chapters into one unit defined by the instructor.
As stated earlier, most introductory text follow the same pattern, and that makes sense. Covering "the basics" first is necessary before getting into aspects of groups and institutions--including deviance, stratification, and change.
I had no problems navigating through the text, and clicked on many of the images and links and had no issues with connections. The "Key Takeaways" and "For your Review" boxes at the end of sections were nice, as was the end-of-chapter material and "Using Sociology" features. The "Using Sociology" features offered some nice assignment and/or discussion ideas!
As expected for a college text, I did not find any glaring (or non-glaring!) errors.
I appreciated, and I'm sure students would appreciate, the use the current, relatable examples. I think there is good representation of diversity, although Native Americans are given brief coverage in the discussion of race/ethnicity. I did not find any of the material "offensive," but students might be taken aback by the photo of the lynching victim. I'm not saying the image should not have been included, only that instructors should be ready and able to address student discomfort that might go along with that image in particular and discussion around it. That is part of the discipline.
A few things that I really like about the current open access online text I am currently using are: 1. The inclusion of a glossary of key terms in each section, and 2. Built in student assessments at the end of most sections that invite students to "test their knowledge" by answering a few questions. Immediate feedback is provided, with guidance where needed. Features like that are nice, and would have been appreciated with this text. Regarding this evaluation, I will say that I completed about 85% of it, and left it "open" on my computer hoping to complete it at a later time. When I checked back in to complete it, all of my responses had been eliminated and I had to start over from scratch. A "Save" feature would be great so that a reviewer could complete this review over the course of a few days before doing a final "Submit." Thank you.
At first glance the text is daunting and I worry that my students might be turned off simply based on the size, 3588 pages in iBooks. Given its read more
At first glance the text is daunting and I worry that my students might be turned off simply based on the size, 3588 pages in iBooks. Given its length I was disappointed that there's no index or glossary for quick reference. It makes sense that Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World is this long because it offers a fairly exhaustive scope into sociology. All essential topics for an Intro course are here, and are covered in a thorough manner. I really thought the Introductions with their snapshots of social issues provided an excellent way to ground the material, to show students why a sociological approach is important and these also allow me to develop lesson plans that develop my students ability to think sociologically. This also helps counter how quickly material becomes dated, the concepts in sociology endure but the data is ever changing, it seems like this is easily correctable in an open source and, where I can step in with more current lecture material.
The text is thoroughly cited. Statistical data is never going to keep up once we put it on paper but the book is fairly up to date, and when not I can engage students to find the most current information. A few concepts need to be fleshed out or, I simply don't think the definitions work. Specifically, in the section of Race I thought the definitions of race and ethnicity are a good start but the two get conflated in parts. This is really a question of nuance and one's theoretical perspective as much as it is about accuracy and bias. As a whole Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World is accurate and unbiased.
Sociological data is in constant flux and a text will never be fully up to date. The subjects here are all going to continue to be relevant to the discipline and to students' development as scholars. Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World provides a balanced and engaging way to think about the essentials of sociology and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The chapter intro's with their snapshots of current issues might become dated soon, this can lead to a discussion of change and why it happens or/and can make the material seem dated, these sections, along with statistical data will need to be vetted frequently.
The writing is clear and free from jargon. The key ideas are presented, but they are shown in language easy to access if you don't have a background in sociology.
Each chapter follows a consistent framework for presenting the material. Students are presented with a real world discussion of the topic to be covered, they are then provided the material to fully explore a concept - theories and key ideas, thinkers and the various applications and finally each chapter ends with an excellent summary of the preceding material and a quick vignette to apply the material to.
Because Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World is organized using subsections within chapters, choosing just subsections to use or exclude, as well as full chapters can be easily done. There are excellent citations throughout that also allow for easy incorporation of assigned readings or more detailed engagements with specific topics.
The text follows a pretty standard format for Intro textbooks and courses. We start with key ideas and thinkers, the how to do and then go into key social structures to apply the key ideas. While standard, the organization, structure and flow aren't lazy, chapters have breaks to engage students in what they've read and, sections to get them to think of the application of the ideas covered.
I read this book on iBook and it was easy to read and navigate. The biggest issue for me, and it is problematic, is that certain key sections within chapters, learning from other societies and sociology making a difference in particular, were shaded just slightly darker than the text so if you're studying late, have poor vision or aren't as engaged as you should be while ready then you might miss their relevance. Several other key sections were shaded in striking colors to help them stand out, this should be done consistently. Key words are also not colored in or printed in bold to show their significance. Links to external sites aren't as easily identifiable as they could be. I did like the inclusion of chats and photos to break up the sections of text, this worked really well.
I did not notice any grammatical errors in the text.
The texts tries to bring in a cross-cultural perspective when it fits, and it succeeds for the most part in discussing how other social systems work. There are some issues with definitions and conceptualizing issues such as race and gender, but I think these work to allow for discussion and a greater exploration rather than to stifle their significance and importance. Certainly issues of race, class and gender are shown as important and integral to study and, to apply in the presentation of material.
I really liked this text and will most likely adopt it for my online Intro course and perhaps my face-to-face course. I really like that I can cut sections, assign outside reading and bring in more current examples when needed. The text works well with this kind of editing and allows itself to be built upon. I really like how each chapter ends with a real world application of the material, this is a great segue into active learning activities.
This book is very comprehensive. Not only does it include chapters that are found within traditional standard Introduction to Sociology textbooks read more
This book is very comprehensive. Not only does it include chapters that are found within traditional standard Introduction to Sociology textbooks (e.g., physical "in hand" books from other publishers that students must spend money on to buy), this book also includes a chapter on global stratification. While it is quite lengthy, at over 700 pages, the electronic formats make it more feasible for readers (i.e., you do not have to carry a heavy book around campus). My only concern is that it is lacking an index and glossary although key terms are highlighted in blue (although not always defined in the chapter). Speaking from personal experience, those elements are very useful to students. But, with the electronic formats (e.g., Adobe), students could use the "find" function instead of an index or glossary although this may be more time consuming. As with other textbooks, there is an end-of-chapter summary wrap up.
The content is accurate. There are relevant citations throughout the entire book.
The version I reviewed said, "University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing edition, 2016...adapted form a work originally produced in 2010." This information relays to me that this book has been updated in order for it to stay current. There are classic examples in the book that will not go obsolete (e.g., Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement) and also contemporary examples from the media. The news pieces may become obsolete if they become too dated, but regardless, they do illustrate the content in each chapter. I would have liked to see more up to date data in the deviance and crime chapter (e.g., public opinion on the death penalty). Data from 2008 seems a bit old in this regard.
The author has a writing style that is very accessible to students. The narrative flows in a logical order that makes it easy to follow. Foundational concepts are given at the beginning of chapters so that they can be built on in later parts of chapters and/or in the book.
The framework is consistent. The style of narrative remains the same throughout the entire book. Most chapters also include one or more of the following: social issues in the news, sociology making a difference, learning from other societies, and what sociology suggests. Other chapters are also often referenced (e.g., Ch. 15 on Family Violence refers students back to Ch. 12 on Aging and the Elderly and elder abuse) so that students can refer to them. This is another way for students to see how various chapters' content connect.
This book is flexible in terms of assigning readings or using smaller sections. For example, Chapter 7 is on crime and deviance. If an instructor would prefer not to cover theories relating to this topic (e.g., there may be a course dedicated to this topic), they could remove section 7.2 from the assigned reading. As an important note though, given that there are typically 15-16 weeks in a standard semester system and that there are 22 chapters in this text, one may find it hard to cover everything that this book has to offer. Therefore, the ability to remove specific sections is a plus.
As stated in other sections of this review, the flow of the book (organization and structure) is standard for this type of introductory text. It is presented in a logical, clear, and approachable way and is ready for student consumption.
I used Adobe Reader to review the book on a separate stand alone monitor. Therefore, one has access to things like the thumbnails and bookmarks. Given the single spacing of paragraphs, the electronic format allows one to increase the size of the picture as to provide less strain on the eyes. It seems that some of the blue-faced text are "active links" in that you can click them to open up another webpage, but others are not. Given the electronic format of the book, hyperlinks to items (e.g., current events) would have been nice to include although I am not sure how much additional work this would have been for the publisher to include such things.
To my knowledge, this books has been edited for grammatical errors. I did not locate any.
Sociology as a discipline is culturally relevant. The textbook captures this. While not claimed to be a global textbook in and of itself, it would have been beneficial to include more global examples. Being primarily based on the U.S., this addition of global context could help reach more audiences (e.g., international students and U.S. students who would have the opportunity to learn more about other cultures).
Thank you for the opportunity to review this textbook. Overall, I would recommend its use in a course for which it is deemed appropriate (e.g., and Introduction to Sociology course).
Very thorough in its scope and range, resulting in a tome in size. I would have liked to see an actual table of contents at the beginning of the read more
Very thorough in its scope and range, resulting in a tome in size. I would have liked to see an actual table of contents at the beginning of the text, though navigation can be done via bookmarks. Lastly a glossary/index would have been good to include too.
Barken is accurate, though I saw errors in spacing in the first paragraph of many chapters. While this can be considered a minor issue, I found it distracting. First impressions that academics notice, while students probably will not. Data used in the text from 2008 or 2010 seems outdated, though.
The foundational material is presented in typical textbook format. Updating charts and tables with new data should be relatively easy to incorporate.
The prose is great! Easy to understand what the author is explaining. Important terminology is nicely explained using more that simply one example for comparisons.
Consistency is good but would be better, as mentioned previously, by having a table of contents and a glossary/index outside of bookmarks.
Because this text is organized using subsections with chapters, picking and choosing subsections or entire chapters throughout the text can be easily accomplished.
For those who are familiar with the standard layout of a Sociology text, Barken's tome will seem very comfortable to use.
I read this using Adobe pdf file. While bookmarks does allow for navigation through the chapters, I was distracted by the tiny movements of my mouse which allowed sizing and +/- aspects of Adobe's software.
The only thing that startled me about grammar, as mentioned earlier, is the space issues at the beginning of many first paragraphs of the chapters.
I did not find anything culturally offensive. I really enjoyed the sections in each chapter titled " Learning from other cultures" as a wonderful means of showing to students that how we do things in our culture is not the only way to do things!
This is a very, very comprehensive textbook! That being said, I believe that this would be a delight to use in face-to-face classes as well as online classes. However, given its length and depth, I wonder if first-time or beginning teachers, might find it a bit overwhelming. There are so many choices to be made. The bottom line is that you cannot cover everything and choices have to be made to fit time constraints, among others. Nevertheless, I would recommend this text to my peers and I look forward to using it, myself, in the near future.
The chapter topics are quite comprehensive, and chapters provide thorough, balanced overviews of each topic. The big missing chapter is one on war, read more
The chapter topics are quite comprehensive, and chapters provide thorough, balanced overviews of each topic. The big missing chapter is one on war, a topic the author tries to cover in a section of the chapter on More generally, the pdf version I review here, however, lacks a proper front page listing out the book's basic publication facts, a glossary of key concepts, and, much more importantly, any sort of index at back. I realize pdf files are searchable, but I wonder if the lack of such things won't limit the student's ability to use this book. Finally, the content of the 2011 edition I'm reviewing does not match the index provided on the text's homepage with its publisher!
Like almost every introductory textbook, there are important elisions and overstatements. Nevertheless, the explanations are generally balanced and thought-provoking.
The text is pretty outdated already, especially given the recent events in areas like race and war. The author does a nice job of talking about fairly durable aspects of the sociological perspective, but also includes several curiously dates references.
The writing is engaging and even entertaining, if also somewhat discursive.
The chapters open with thought pieces and context openers, then turn to definitions and elaborations. The author sticks to the format, and it works well.
The modularity is excellent. Those pursuing OER teaching strategies will find lots of valuable sections that can be used and adapted within the book's CC licensing. There are some hyperlinks that will raise issues on this front, but modularity here is a strength.
The author uses a clear and consistent chapter structure, and the readers knows what to expect as s/he proceeds.
The book is well composed as a pdf document and searches work well. I still wish there was an index with hyperlinks at bottom, however.
The text is grammatically error-free.
Barkan writes with authority and yet avoids any narrow or insulting terms or references.
The book's weakness is it length and paucity of discussion of issues of war and peace. It's strength is the modularity and the author's patient elucidation of key sociological concepts and debates.
While this is a very long text and has chapters dedicated to all main "intro" topics, there are key concepts that are missing - namely in the Race read more
While this is a very long text and has chapters dedicated to all main "intro" topics, there are key concepts that are missing - namely in the Race (Ch 7), Class (Ch 6), and Gender (Ch 8) chapters. I also would like to see an online text integrate more current events. One of the benefits of an online (dynamic) text is that it could be easily updated. I'd like to see key concepts in bold with a glossary.
Statistics, especially those on social class, need to be updated. Moreover, the text refers to intersex as something that only happens in other countries, which is not true (p. 366). It also inaccurately conflates transgender with sexual orientation (p. 356). The reference to marriage equality needs to be updated (Ch 8).
This text needs to be updated. Current events should be current - Ch 1 refers to the 2008 presidential election. Figure 1.4 U.S. Suicide Rates is drawn from a 2009 publication (data 2000-2006). On page 18, reference is made to "college mixer" - this should be changed to "party". In Ch 8, a statement is made that women hold cigarettes with their palms up - I have never anyone do this. It seems reasonable, again, especially for an online text, that data is updated at least every five years. Ideally, I'd like to see a section for each chapter that is updated annually with respect to current events. This could just be in the discussion questions or with links to websites, without entire chapters being rewritten.
The book is well written. The author/s seem to talk around sociological concepts though rather than naming them with a definition (e.g., Thomas Theorem Ch 7, Gini Index Ch 6, standpoint Ch 6). The book uses clear definitions and examples.
The text is internally consistent.
There are only a few references to other chapters contained within chapters, so chapters can be used stand alone.
The topics are presented in a logical, clear fashion.
I recommend an interactive table of contents and live links embedded in the text to data sources or other web sites. Images could be improved and, in general, it could feel the entire text could feel more alive. In the pdf version, the figure or graph titles often show up on the following page. Anytime a word is in italics, the words squeeze together (e.g., "onsocial"). Actual numbers need to be added to all figures/charts. In Ch 6, pie charts are better for presenting quintile data for income and wealth.
The text contains few if any grammatical errors.
As I mentioned before, intersex and transgender are incorrectly presented. Moreover, in the gender chapter, the text needs to be clear that the constructions of masculinity and femininity are Western constructions. Be clear when the U.S. point of view is being used by naming it as such (not just "our"). The text has fewer global references than I expected.
I really appreciate how this text introduces ideology and then weaves the American Dream, meritocracy, and blame the victim ideology across several chapters. While there are sections I'll ask students to skip because they are not part of our curriculum, I do expect to adopt Chapters 1-5 for my online Intro course. The Class (Ch 6), Race (Ch 7) and Gender (Ch 8) chapters are problematic, however, to the point that they are not useful. The data need to be updated and, in an online text, there should be some analysis of or at least reference to current events. For example, in the race chapter section on institutional discrimination, criminal justice, mass incarceration, war on drugs, and Black Lives Matter should be included. In the gender chapter, while I appreciate the presentation of women as a class, there is so much here that is outdated. For example, the entire evolutionary section should be deleted. The chapter defines sex and gender, but then conflates male/man and female/woman, and misrepresents intersex and transgender. On page 358, the statement is made "consider the obvious biological fact that women bear and nurse children and men do not" - the ability or interest in bearing and raising children does not define female or woman. Then the authors emphasize that "the public" wants to maintain "traditional" gender roles via public opinion surveys that state 1/3 of "the public" believes women should stay home. Instead, the authors could have emphasized the larger 2/3 who disagree with the statement that women should stay home (GSS 2008). There should be focused attention to intersectionality beyond the "triple burden" on page 392.
The challenge with providing a textbook that tackles dynamic concepts such as globalization and social change, is making sure the information is read more
The challenge with providing a textbook that tackles dynamic concepts such as globalization and social change, is making sure the information is current and relevant. Although what we write today is not current tomorrow, the author of Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World has, in my opinion, succeeded in tapping into the timely fever of studies on social change and the corresponding increase in university degree programs, such as the University of Arizona's Global Studies degree, that focus on our rapidly changing world. The comprehensive scope and sequence of this textbook includes chapters on culture, gender, race and ethnicity, age, class, education, religion, etc., and continues throughout to build a structure with traditional beams of sociology that are enhanced with windows into modern day issues of social reform. Finally, the call for student activism and practice with hypothetical scenarios at the end of each chapter, is refreshing. Students yearn for opportunities to employ agency in enacting social change and this textbook provides for such an environment.
In a large part, acknowledging that we are all biased is a great lesson taught in this book. The section early in the book titled "How do we know what we think we know" is needed in order to address the fact that although the book strives for accuracy and a multicultural representation of the topics, we are all influenced by our experiences and surroundings. With that said, I do find this book to be accurate.
I was initially concerned that the "issues in the news" section would make same chapters feel obsolete. However, the stories picked represent snapshots in time of stories that offer a nice introduction into the topic of the chapter and do not mark the chapter as lacking in relevance. At some point, the dates of these stories may cause students and instructors to ask themselves if these stories would happen today. This only provides for a good discussion and an opportunity to edit these chapters with more current stories.
The prose is quite clear and easy to read. All necessary jargon is defined and explained.
The flow and organization of the chapters is consistent and a strength of this book.
This book's modularity is one of its strongest components. Almost every chapter is designed for small reading assignments that range from learning about social issues in the news to applying these issues to traditional U.S. sociological perspectives and comparing these perspectives with those from other societies and cultures. The Using Sociology vignettes at the end of each chapter offer instructors the perfect tool for organizing small group work with students and for assigning groups creative, relevant, and meaningful projects to complete and report back to the large group.
The scope and sequence of topics in this text is clear and appropriately organized. The text begins with larger concepts, such as culture and socialization and narrows chapter by chapter for a more detailed discussion on diverse groups that at the same time share many things in common and are quite distinct as well. The text spans out again to address wider concepts of education, religion and the environment and brings it all together in the end to ask students to contemplate on what they've learned about society and themselves and their role and the role of sociology for achieving social change.
The interface of this book is simple and easy to navigate. One comes to expect certain organization after a while, which makes using this text easy and engaging.
I did not find any grammatical errors while reading this text.
I appreciate the attempt by the author to give a greater treatment of perspectives from other societies. Although still heavily weighted with a U.S. slant in examples and ideas, I applaud the author for the inclusion of perspectives from other societies and believe that the daunting task of making these texts more global is an important one.
This text offers a very useable resource that I plan to use extensively in my Dimensions of Globalization course. I appreciate the well crafted flow that goes beyond mere explanation and encouragement of social reform, but actually provides opportunities for activities of relevant activism. This is refreshing and needed in order to tap into the needs and desires of today's student/global changer.
Barkan’s textbook is a staggering 764 pages in length, covering 15 chapters (the last, a concluding overview of what students should have learned read more
Barkan’s textbook is a staggering 764 pages in length, covering 15 chapters (the last, a concluding overview of what students should have learned from the text) and a broad range of fundamental and contemporary sociological topics. Each chapter appears to include similar breadth and depth of topic coverage. Depending on the chapter, subheadings may “walk” readers from topic to its relevance or explore further subunits of content (e.g., surveys, experiments, and observational studies in Chapter 1.4, Sociological Method). The style is sufficiently mixed to maintain reader interest. However, the textbook does not include an index or glossary for quick reference.
Lessons and subject matter appear accurate and error-free. Lessons include appropriate references and citations to help direct readers to original source information.
Fundamental topics and content areas in sociology change very little and tend not to go out of style; Barkan’s text covers them all quite well. The author incorporates the most recently available data sources available at the time (media and research studies dated within five years of the book’s publication). Some references to old General Social Survey data will feel unavoidably dated to traditional college-age readers.
The textbook offers very little noticeable jargon. Barkan’s tone is receptive to students new to sociology, as it maintains a conversational yet informative style. The prose seems easy to comprehend and appropriate for a general audience.
The text appears internally consistent. Each chapter follows a similar structural arrangement of units and topics, starting with fundamental concepts and ending with practical application of content material.
Each chapter consists of between two and four key subjects and a terminal summary section. The book dedicates relatively equal coverage between fundamental sociological concepts, key organizing units of society, and contemporary topics such as health, religion, demography, and social movements. If any given heading constituted an individual lesson, the reading load would range between 10 and 15 pages with frequent blocking of prose with tables and figures. Since the modularity is based on relatively topic-centered arrangement, reorganization and realignment of subunits does not seem easy to do. Instructors may find it easier to supplements lessons with either identified references for each chapter or other outside source material.
Barkan’s textbook features wide and broad coverage of individual topics. He introduces each chapter with an excerpt from a published work, a historical reference, or recent coverage (at publication time) of a human interest story. The first section of a chapter explores conceptual meanings of the topic of interest (e.g., sociology as a social science) and later sections expand and develop the conceptual meanings further (e.g., sociological imagination, debunking, sociology and social reform). The book transitions effectively from fundamentals to contemporary issues. Barkan earns additional kudos for providing effective summary sections at the conclusion of each chapter. Short in length, summaries make excellent tools for students to test their own knowledge comprehension. Only one minor issue exists: the book relies heavily on subject headings, abandoning bold print or typography to highlight key concepts. This is remedied somewhat in the For Your Review section.
I reviewed this textbook using Adobe Reader on a personal computer. Please be aware that your experience may vary if using a smartphone, tablet, or other handheld digital device or a third-party Portable Document Format (PDF) software program. Barkan makes use of bookmarks to help readers navigate the book’s chapters and major headings (e.g., Learning Objectives, Key Takeaways, For Your Review). The textbook does not include a table of contents or an index to help readers search specific key words or topics. In addition, the textbook fails to provide internal navigation. Readers can click web URLs, but footnotes or self-referential links (light blue text) are not clickable. One final issue is the graphical presentation of some tables and images. Because the text is written with double line spacing and paragraph breaks, figure and table headings may end up separated from the associated content. More noticeable is the cutting-off of the bottom border of simple tables.
The textbook is free of grammatical errors. One or two mechanical errors caught my attention – mostly failure to add space between words, resulting in an inappropriate line break. For the few errors that may exist, they are minor enough to avoid sustained distraction.
I did not detect any evidence of cultural offensiveness or insensitivity. Barkan is highly effective in incorporating diverse cultural relevance into his lessons. He draws in both cross-national and non-Western references and examples to the greatest extent possible.
An immense tome at first glance, Barkan’s Sociology is easily disassembled into effective constituent topics that lend themselves well to a broad, survey-style introduction to sociology course. Instructors who rely on Barkan’s division of subject matter can expect relatively short reading loads that are unlikely to overwhelm students new to the discipline. Second, the For Your Review sections promote a more experiential learning opportunity. Several prompts would make equally effective in-class or homework exercises to break up and diversify lessons. Interface flaws aside, I recommend this textbook.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: Sociology and the Sociological Perspective
- Chapter 2: Eye on Society: Doing Sociological Research
- Chapter 3: Culture
- Chapter 4: Socialization
- Chapter 5: Social Structure and Social Interaction
- Chapter 6: Groups and Organizations
- Chapter 7: Deviance, Crime, and Social Control
- Chapter 8: Social Stratification
- Chapter 9: Global Stratification
- Chapter 10: Race and Ethnicity
- Chapter 11: Gender and Gender Inequality
- Chapter 12: Aging and the Elderly
- Chapter 13: Work and the Economy
- Chapter 14: Politics and Government
- Chapter 15: The Family
- Chapter 16: Education
- Chapter 17: Religion
- Chapter 18: Health and Medicine
- Chapter 19: Population and Urbanization
- Chapter 20: Social Change and the Environment
- Chapter 21: Collective Behavior and Social Movements
- Chapter 22: Conclusion: Understanding and Changing the Social World
About the Book
The founders of sociology in the United States wanted to make a difference. A central aim of the sociologists of the Chicago school was to use sociological knowledge to achieve social reform. A related aim of sociologists like Jane Addams, W.E.B. DuBois, and Ida B. Wells-Barnett and others since was to use sociological knowledge to understand and alleviate gender, racial, and class inequality.
It is no accident that many sociology instructors and students are first drawn to sociology because they want to learn a body of knowledge that could help them make a difference in the world at large. Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World is designed for this audience. It presents a sociological understanding of society but also a sociological perspective on how to change society, while maintaining the structure and contents of the best mainstream texts.
Several pedagogical features of the book convey the sociological perspective and change theme:
Almost every chapter begins with a Social Issues in the News story from recent media coverage that recounts an event related to the chapter’s topic and proceeds with thought-provoking discussion about the social issue related to the event. Additional discussion elsewhere in the chapter helps students understand the basis for this issue and related issues. This dual treatment of the news story will help students appreciate the relevance of sociology for newsworthy events and issues.
Three types of boxes in almost every chapter reflect the U.S. founders’ emphasis on sociology and social justice. The first box, Sociology Making a Difference, discusses a social issue related to the chapter’s topic and shows how sociological insights and findings have been used, or could be used, to address the issue and achieve social reform. The second box, Learning from Other Societies, discusses the experience in another nation(s) regarding a social issue related to the chapter; this box helps students appreciate what has worked and not worked in other nations regarding the issue and thus better understand how social reform might be achieved in the United States. The third box, What Sociology Suggests, summarizes social policies grounded in sociological theory and research that hold strong potential for addressing issues discussed in the chapter.
In addition, many chapters contain tables called Theory Snapshots. These tables provide a quick reference tool for students to understand the varying theoretical approaches to the sociological topic that the chapter is discussing.
Finally, almost every chapter ends with a Using Sociology vignette that presents a hypothetical scenario concerning an issue or topic from the chapter and asks students to use the chapter’s material in a decision-making role involving social change. These vignettes help students connect the chapter’s discussion with real-life situations and, in turn, to better appreciate the relevance of sociological knowledge for social reform.
Drawing on these features and other discussion throughout the book, a brief and unique final chapter, "Conclusion: Understanding and Changing the Social World," sums up what students have learned about society and themselves and reviews the relevance of sociology for achieving social change.
Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World makes sociology relevant for today’s students by balancing traditional coverage with a fresh approach that ironically takes them back to sociology’s American roots in the use of sociological knowledge for social reform.
About the Contributors
Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World is adapted from a work produced by a publisher who has requested that they and the original author not receive attribution. This adapted edition is produced by the University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing through the eLearning Support Initiative. Though the publisher has requested that they and the original author not receive attribution, this adapted edition reproduces all original text and sections of the book, except for publisher and author name attribution.