Essentials of Sociology (Sixth Edition)
We believe that sociology plays an essential role in modern intellectual culture and occupies a central place within the social sciences. We have aimed to write a book that merges classic sociological theories with up-to-the-minute social issues that interest sociologists today. We also believe that sociologists must use rigorous research methods in order to study and understand human behavior. We highlight findings from ethnographic studies to document the hows and whys of social behavior, and also present current statistical data to document important social trends. We aim to present material in a “fair and balanced” way. Although each of the authors has his or her own perspective on social theories, methods, and social policy, we have worked hard to ensure that our treatment is unbiased and non-partisan. We strive to present the most complete picture of sociology possible. Given the vast array of topics encompassed by sociology, however, we made difficult choices about what the most essential topics in sociology are today. We hope readers are engaged, intrigued, and occasionally inspired by the ideas presented in this book.
About the Essentials Edition
The Sixth Edition of Essentials of Sociology is based on the Tenth Edition of our best-selling text Introduction to Sociology. We created the Essentials Edition for instructors and students who are looking for a briefer book that can fit into a compressed academic schedule. We have reduced the length of the book by roughly one-third, and we reduced the number of chapters from twenty to sixteen.
We cut selected topics to focus the chapters on the core ideas of sociology, while still retaining the themes that have made the text a successful teaching tool. Major Themes The book is constructed around four basic themes that provide its character.
The newest theme is applying sociology to everyday life. Sociological thinking enables self-understanding, which in turn can be focused back on an improved understanding of the social world. Studying sociology can be a liberating experience: It expands our sympathies and imagination, opens up new perspectives on the sources of our own behavior, and creates an awareness of cultural settings different from our own. Sociological ideas challenge dogma, teach appreciation of cultural variety, and allow us insight into the working of social institutions. At a more practical level, the text shows how technology affects our daily experiences (new “Digital Life” sections) and how countries across the globe compare on key metrics such as incarceration rate, maternity leave benefits, and gender inequality (full-page “Globalization by the Numbers” infographics). Our second theme is inequalities.
Throughout the text, we highlight that important resources—whether education, health, income, or social support—are not fairly or evenly distributed to all individuals. We highlight the ways that gender, race, social class, and age shape our daily lives in the United States. We also pay keen attention to global inequalities, and reveal how differences in economic and natural resources throughout the world powerfully influence even very personal experiences—including health, religion, and relationships. A third theme of the book is that of social and historical context. Sociology was born of the transformations that wrenched the industrializing social order of the
West away from the lifestyles characteristic of earlier societies. The pace of social change has continued to accelerate, and it is possible that we now stand on the threshold of transitions as significant as those that occurred in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Sociology has the prime responsibility for charting the transformations of our past and for grasping the major lines of development taking place today. Our understanding of the past also contributes to our understanding of institutions in the present and future. The fourth fundamental theme of the book is globalization. For far too long, sociology has been dominated by the view that societies can be studied as independent entities. But even in the past, societies never really existed in isolation.
Today we can see a clear acceleration in processes of global integration. This is obvious, for example, in the expansion of international trade across the world. The emphasis on globalization also connects closely with the weight given to the interdependence of the industrialized and developing worlds today. Despite these interconnections, however, societies have their own distinctive attributes, traditions, and experiences. Sociology cannot be taught solely by understanding the institutions of any one particular society. While we have slanted our discussion toward the United States, we have also balanced it with a rich variety of materials drawn from other regions—especially those undergoing rapid social change, such as the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe.
The book also includes much more material on developing countries than has been usual in introductory texts. All of the chapters in the book have been updated and revised to reflect the most recent available data. Each chapter opens with a contemporary news event or social trend— ranging from the most local and seemingly trivial (like an email from Yale University administrators about Halloween costumes) to the most global and profound (such as the catastrophic earthquakes in Haiti and Japan). These events are used to motivate and explain the key sociological concepts, themes, and studies that are elaborated throughout the text. Other substantive changes include:
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