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Anthony Giddens, Philip W. Sutton

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eBook - ePub


Anthony Giddens, Philip W. Sutton

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Over a million copies sold worldwide The indispensable guide to understanding the world we make and the lives we lead.

This thoroughly revised and updated ninth edition remains unrivalled in its vibrant, engaging and authoritative introduction to sociology. The authors provide a commanding overview of the latest global developments and new ideas in this fascinating subject. Classic debates are also given careful coverage, with even the most complex ideas explained in a straightforward way.

Written in a fluent, easy-to-follow style, the book manages to be intellectually rigorous but still very accessible. With a strong focus on interactive pedagogy, it aims to engage and excite readers, helping them to see the enduring value of thinking sociologically.

The ninth edition includes:

  • a solid foundation in the basics of sociology: its purpose, methodology and theories;
  • up-to-the-minute overviews of key topics in social life, from gender, personal life and poverty, to globalization, the media and politics;
  • stimulating examples of what sociology has to say about key issues in our contemporary world, such as climate change, growing inequality and rising polarization in societies across the world;
  • a strong focus on global connections and the ways that digital technologies are radically transforming our lives;
  • quality pedagogical features, such as 'Classic Studies' and 'Global Society' boxes, and 'Thinking Critically' reflection points, as well as end-of-chapter activities inviting readers to engage with popular culture and original research articles to gather sociological insights.

The ninth edition sets the standard for introductory sociology in a complex world. It is the ideal teaching text for first-year university and college courses, and will help to inspire a new generation of sociologists.

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  1. An introduction to sociology
  2. The sociological imagination
  3. Studying people and societies
  4. The development of sociological thinking
  5. Theories and theoretical perspectives
  6. Founders of sociology
  7. Three theoretical traditions
  8. Levels of analysis: microsociology and macrosociology
  9. The uses of sociology
  10. Public and professional sociology
  11. Summary
  12. Chapter review
  13. Research in practice
  14. Thinking it through
  15. Society in the arts
  16. Further reading
  17. Internet links
As the Covid-19 pandemic spread around the world in 2020, many national governments closed their borders or imposed entry restrictions. This had a dramatic effect on global aviation. A majority of the world’s aircraft were grounded and many of the best-known airlines effectively closed down. Flying is one of the more visible examples of globalization and the fabulous opportunities it offers, but the aviation industry also helped to spread the virus and its health risks rapidly across the globe. This example illustrates something of the character of today’s high-opportunity, high-risk world.
As the Covid-19 pandemic spread around the world in 2020, many national governments closed their borders or imposed entry restrictions. This had a dramatic effect on global aviation. A majority of the world’s aircraft were grounded and many of the best-known airlines effectively closed down. Flying is one of the more visible examples of globalization and the fabulous opportunities it offers, but the aviation industry also helped to spread the virus and its health risks rapidly across the globe. This example illustrates something of the character of today’s high-opportunity, high-risk world.
Today’s social world offers exciting opportunities for travel, work and leisure that heighten perceptions of individual freedom and choice. Yet, at the same time, many people have anxieties and concerns about the risks inherent in our modern way of life. With widespread use of the internet and social media, communicating and maintaining contact across continents is more immediate and routine than ever before, but there are also violent crime, global terrorism, national conflicts and wars, along with persistent economic and social inequalities. The modern world has many opportunities and possibilities but it is also fraught with high-consequence risks such as global pandemics, rising air pollution, climate change, and the threat posed by nuclear and chemical weapons. We live in ‘high-risk, high reward’ societies which appear to fluctuate wildly between extremes without any overall authority or control.
Most people within the relatively rich nations of the Global North are materially better off than ever before, but in other parts of the world, notably the Global South, many millions live in poverty where children die for the lack of fundamental necessities such as nutritious food, safe water and basic healthcare. How can this be, when humanity as a whole has the capability to control its own destiny to an extent that would have been unimaginable to previous generations? How did this world come about? Why is the human world riven with huge inequalities of wealth and income? Where are today’s societies heading in the future? These large questions are among the central concerns of sociology, a field of study that has a fundamental role to play in modern life.
Sociology can be simply defined as the scientific study of social groups, whole societies and the human world as such. The scope of sociology is extremely broad, ranging from the analysis of passing encounters between individuals in the street to changes in family life, new forms of personal and social identity, and relationships between nation-states. Most of us see the world in terms of the familiar features of our own lives – our families, friendships and working lives, for example. Sociology insists that we take a broader and longer view in order to understand why we act in the ways we do. It teaches us that much of what appears to us as natural, inevitable, good and true may not be so, and that things we take for granted are shaped by historical events and social processes. Understanding the quite subtle but complex and profound ways in which our individual lives reflect the contexts of our social experience is fundamental to the sociologist’s way of seeing.

An introduction to sociology

This chapter is the first of a block of three which, taken together, provide a broad introduction to the discipline of sociology: what it is, how it developed over time, how sociologists go about their work, and what kinds of explanations they use. It provides a brief introduction to what sociology is, how and why it came into existence and what it is used for. Chapter 2 then looks at the practice of sociology: how sociologists actually study their subject. It describes the questions they ask, the wide range of research methods they use to address those questions, and how they evaluate their findings. It also tackles the thorny issue of whether sociology can or should be considered ‘scientific’.
Chapter 3 looks at sociological theories. Theories are an essential part of all scientific subjects because they provide explanations rather than descriptions that simply list relevant facts. For example, we might find that the proportion of married women in Australia who are in work today is higher than it was in the 1950s. Such bald statistics are certainly useful, but they are crying out for an explanation – why are more married women working today than in the past? Good theories provide explanations. They tell us why something has happened or changed and in that way they broaden our knowledge. In chapter 3 we introduce some important sociological theories including Marxism, feminism, functionalism, structuration theory, postcolonialism, postmodernism and more. You should not be put off by these labels, which are just shorthand ways of describing different groups of sociologists who interpret and aim to understand the social world.
In the rest of this chapter we first discuss sociology as a way of thinking about the world which, once you have mastered it, becomes very difficult to avoid. In short, once a sociologist, always a sociologist! World events, political debates, personal relationships, family life: you will see all of these and many more in a different light once you have developed a sociological way of seeing and thinking.
Second, we introduce the ideas of some of the sociological thinkers of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who established the subject as an academic discipline. We connect these thinkers to the times they lived through to illustrate the emerging social problems they tried to solve and how they went about it. We then discuss some of the approaches to sociology that came afterwards. However, this is not a comprehensive list, and you will need to read chapter 3, on ‘Theories and Perspectives’, for more recent theories.
Third, we look at some of the uses of sociology. Many students are attracted to sociology because they have a desire to help others and want a suitable ‘people-centred’ career. Some sociology graduates find careers in the caring professions, social work, teaching or the criminal justice system. Others use their research skills and knowledge to good effect in business management, market research, local and national government administration or research consultancy. Still others (after more study) become professional sociologists themselves working in universities and colleges. While studying sociology can be the first step on the path to a rewarding and satisfying career, some individuals study sociology simply because they want to understand better the world we live in. This is sociology as personal enlightenment relatively unconnected to a specific career path.
Some sociologists use their training and skills in very practical ways to try and improve the conditions of life for people by intervening to change an existing situation. This branch of the discipline is known as ‘applied sociology’, where many studies of homelessness, poverty, unemployment, drug addiction, self-harm, and so on, lead to interventions. Based on their research findings, applied researchers may try out potential solutions on a small scale or make recommendations for changes to government policy or service provision.
The chapter ends with recent ideas of the need for sociologists to engage more with the general public and the media if sociology is to have a greater impact on society. We have become used to seeing psychologists, historians and political scientists as experts on radio, on television news and in documentaries, but rarely do we see sociologists. This section discusses why this is so and what sociologists can and should do about it. However, we begin by outlining what it means to ‘think sociologically’ – a basic prerequisite to the practice of ‘doing sociology’.

The sociological imagination

Studying sociology is not just a routine process of acquiring knowledge from books like this one. Learning to think sociologically means cultivating our imagination in a specific way. The sociologist must be able to break free from the immediacy of their own personal circumstances to see things in a wider social context. Practising sociology depends on developing what the American sociologist C. Wright Mills (1970), in a famous phrase, called a sociological imagination.
The sociological imagination demands that we ‘think ourselves away’ from the familiar routines of our daily life in order that we may look at them from a new point of view which may appear...