Saturday, May 28, 2011

Review essay: Peter Baehr, "Imagining Sociological Theory"

Charles Turner, Investigating Sociological Theory. London & Los Angeles: Sage, 2010, 216 pp. $US 42.95 paper (978-1-84920-375-3), $US 99.95 hardcover (978-1-84920-374-6)

Conceptually rigorous, rich in content, grounded in wide and deep reading, thoughtfully written and judicious, Charles Turner’s new book is a major addition to sociological theory. Even its limitations are instructive.   Read more

Friday, May 27, 2011

Review: Janice Aurini on The Making of an Adolescent Elite

Shamus Rahman Khan, Privilege: The Making of Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010, 248 pp. $US 29.95 hardcover (978-1-4008-3622-2)

Privilege takes us into the world of St. Paul’s, an exclusive boarding school, to examine the new American elite. In this well written ethnography, Khan returns to his alma mater as a teacher and researcher and discovers a transformed institution. Gone are the minority student dorms and (overt) expressions of old money and connections. In its place, the school prides itself on its racial diversity, the inclusion of women, and scholarships that allow superb disadvantaged students an education at St. Paul’s. Years after graduating, Khan finds himself in a school that eschews notions of “who you are” in favour of “what you’ve done.”  Read more

Review: Liliana Riga on The Sociology of War and Violence

Sinisa Malešević, The Sociology of War and Violence. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010, 376 pp. $US 29.99 paper (978-0-521-73169-0), $US 95.00 (978-0-521-51651-9)

The Sociology of War and Violence is at once powerful social theory and excellent comparative-historical sociology. Malesevic’s central claim is that sociological theories — particularly those based on ideological organization and the bureaucratization of coercion — offer a useful understanding of war, modernity and social change. He argues that large-scale collective violence is predicated on both a structural, organizational capacity and a legitimizing ideology. Malešević retrieves the neglected “militarist” dimensions in classical social theory, Max Weber in particular … Read more

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Review: Toni Calasanti on The Older Man’s Experience of Widowhood

Deborah K. van den Hoonaard, By Himself: The Older Man’s Experience of Widowhood. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010, 176 pp. $45.00 hardcover (978-1-4426-4109-9)

Deborah van den Hoonaard seeks to close gaps in research on how widowers make sense of their situations, and how men “often … attempt to highlight their masculine selves.” Despite the relative rarity of widowers and their general disinterest in interviews, van den Hoonaard managed to speak with twenty-six men aged 60 and over … Read more

Review: Herbert C. Northcott on The Study of Dying

Allan Kellehear, ed., The Study of Dying: From Autonomy to Transformation. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009, 298 pp. $US 29.99 paper (978-0-521-73905-4), $US 75.00 hardcover (978-0-521-51767-6)

This collection of twelve essays addresses the question, “What is it like to die?”. It focuses on the dying process that unfolds in the minutes, hours, days, and sometimes weeks or months before death. In particular this book examines the physical, psychological, behavioural, social, cultural, and spiritual aspects of the experience of dying. The authors are scholars and clinicians who represent a range of disciplines, including social and behavioural studies, veterinary medicine, biomedicine including psychiatry and neurobiology, palliative medicine, nursing, sociology and demography, history, philosophy, art, literature, popular culture, theology and religion. Read more

Review: Rita Samiolo on Knowledge and Ethics in the Financial World

Matthew Gill, Accountants’ Truth: Knowledge and Ethics in the Financial World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, 208 pp. $US 35.00 paper (978-0-19-960310-7), $US 99.00 hardcover (978-0-19-954714-2)

The financial system has been shaken to the core, yet its institutions prove largely impermeable to attempts to question and reform them. Matthew Gill’s book has the merit of opening one of the system's many “black boxes” that even a fast growing body of academic research in the sociology of finance has been quite reluctant to address: accounting. The numbers based on which markets operate, their mundane production by bookkeepers, their validation by audit and assurance experts, as well as the various valuation methods which elaborate on such numbers in order to derive so-called “decision-relevant information,” are still largely taken for granted by sociologists. Gill’s book is a refreshing exception. Read more

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Review: Pat and Hugh Armstrong on Residential Care Transformed

Julia Johnson, Sheena Rolph and Randall Smith, Residential Care Transformed: Revisiting ‘The Last Refuge’ (Basingstoke UK: Palgrave Macmillam, 2010)

This is an important book. It addresses key issues about the quality of residential care for the elderly, about “institutional” life more broadly, and especially about methodologies and ethics in social science research. After a brief background sketch, we start with the related methodological and ethical issues. Read more

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Review: Arthur Frank on Simmel, The View of Life

Georg Simmel, The View of Life: Four Metaphysical Essays with Journal Aphorisms. Translated by John Andrews and Donald Levine, With an introduction by Donald Levine and Daniel Silver. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010, 240 pp. $US 35.00 hardcover (978-0-226-75783-4)

Not least among the editorial decisions for which readers of this seminal publication can be grateful are the quotations that serve as back-cover blurbs. The first quotes the critical theorist Max Horkheimer, in 1956: “Georg Simmel is the only sociologist one can read anymore.” The second quotes the University of Chicago urban sociologist, and Simmel’s student, Robert E. Park: “Although Simmel has written the most profound and stimulating book in sociology, in my opinion … Read more