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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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 However, some crucial topics are out-of-date.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.