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Short But Sweet
on 12 September 2002
Here, finally, is a brief introduction that does justice to its subject. Sociologist Steve Bruce deftly links selected modern empirical studies to classical theorizing not only by major figures such as Marx, Weber, and Durkheim, but also by lesser but significant figures including Robert Michels and Charles Horton Cooley.
Chapters 1--"The Status of Sociology"--and 2--"Social Constructions"--stress complexities introduced into social science by human intentionality and by the extent to which reality is socially constructed. Chapter 3, "Causes and Consequences," interweaves the ideas of Michels and H. Richard Niebuhr into a veritable primer on the sociology of religion. Chapter 4, "The Modern World," critiques Marx and offers a more Weberian five-class schema for analyzing industrial societies. The final chapter, "The Imposters," systematically debunks utopianism, relativism, and postmodernism. I find it the strongest chapter, as when the author insists on the importance of distinguishing between "a social and a sociological problem" and of not confusing "explaining" with "rectifying"(p. 96).
The professional reader may detect some strains rooted in the book's eclecticism, and there are more typographical errors (minor) than one would expect from this distinguished publisher; but these are quibbles. With a style neither oversimplified nor sensationalistic, this book succeeds superbly at introducing sociology quickly, accurately, and engagingly. It should be read by anyone desiring a quick but reliable glimpse into what sociology at its best is really about.