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Culture & Criticism From the Far Distant Realms

Sociology

New Releases from McGraw-Hill

SOCIAL PROBLEMS (Second Edition). John J. Macionis. Pearson-Prentice Hall.

This highly readable text designed for undergraduate students openly advocates a social-constructionist approach to the study of sociology.

Here, Macionis (Kenyon College) attempts to avoid using one explicit or implicit point of view by presenting both a sequence of “problems” and “solutions” from the point of view of various groups (which unfortunately continue to be identified by cliché terms such as “radical,” “liberal,” “conservative,” etc.). Nevertheless, a wealth of material on issues from terrorism, white collar crime, corporate welfare and substance abuse still comes through in clear and vital terms toprovide the undergraduate student a road map in which to begin the study of Sociology.

Further, each chapter contains an informative and lucid essay in a box entitled “Critical Thinking” – addressing the subject matter of each division in a manner specifically designed to hold the student’s interest. As an example, the Critical Thinking on Violence segment focuses on “Ruby Ridge and Waco, The View from the Far Right”. Likewise, Chapter I’s Critical Thinking focuses on the arguments of C. Wright Mills:

“C. Wright Mills believed that the roots of such ‘personal’ problems lie in society itself, often involving the ways our economy and political system work. After all, it is society that favors some categories of people over other; the rich over the poor; white people over people of color; middle-aged people over the young and very old. But when people grapple with their troubles individually, and don’t see the bigger picture of how society operates, they end up feeling that ‘their lives are a series of traps.’ “

In Macionis’ chapter entitled “Urban Life”, the author provides a riveting first-hand observation of life in Manila’s “Smokey Mountain,” a section of Manila housing the poorest of the poor:

“Fed by methane from the decomposing garbage, the fires never go out on Smokey Mountain, Manila’s vast garbage dump. The smoke envelops the hills of refuse like a thick fog . . . Amidst the smoke and squalor, men and women do what they can to survive, picking plastic bags from the city’s garbage and washing them in the river, salvaging cardboard boxes that pile up alongside a family’s plywood shack. All over Smokey Mountain are children – kids who must already sense the enormous odds against them . . . With Smokey Mountain behind us, our taxi driver threads his way through heavy traffic as we head for the other side of Manila . . .[o]n the bay, a cluster of yachts is visible in the distance . . . Every block or so stands an entrance to an exclusive residential enclave set off by gates and protected by armed guards. Here, in large air conditioned homes, the rich of Manila live – and many of the poor work.”

Macionis also addresses the urban poor in America by highlighting David Harvey’s study of growth and decline in Baltimore where government programs served as a tool for economic investors and “urban renewal turned out to be ‘slum clearance’ programs that forced out the poor who often ended up living in ‘projects’ that were worse than the housing they had lived in before.”

In his concluding chapter on war and terrorism, Macionis ominously notes that “[h]istorically, poor nations have been no match for the military might of the colonial powers. For that reason groups opposing colonial rule must act outside the established political system. As noted earlier, terrorism can be an effective way for less powerful people to focus the world’s attention on what they consider to be injustice. In short, war is the means by which powerful nations dominate the globe; terrorism is the means by which the powerless fight back.”

Although this material may prove both heady and disconcerting to a generation of college undergraduates raised on mass jingoism and MTV, Macionis’ text may actuallyassist these young peopleto avoid Malcolm X’s long-unheeded warning that, sooner or later, the chickens come home to roost.

Order from amazon.com.

by Frank Aiello

© Frank Aiello. All rights reserved.


Frank Aiello is an attorney who has practiced law in California since the 1970s, including criminal defense, civil and probate work. He holds a History degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Law degree from Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco; he has also studied Anthropology, Sociology and Political Science extensively. Reach him via The Electric Review.

THROUGH WOMEN’S EYES. An American History. Ellen Carol Dubois. Lynn Dumenil. Bedford/St. Martin’s.

This text provides a fine survey of the journey of women across the landscape of American history. Here, Dubois and Dumenil have created a well-conceived text that serves to document the amazing course of the American woman. Through Women’s Eyes covers a sizeable amount of material, extending from “New World Women” through the modern era. The segments on “Women and Slavery” and William Sanger’s essay on the history of prostitution are especially compelling, outlining the tribulations women have had to transcend in order to reach the point where they could do battle for ‘equality.’ Noted for the quality of its writing and for its organization which, together, promote long-term retention of the material.

Recommended to instructors in American History courses which touch upon the role of women in shaping the iron heart of this country. In addition, Through Women’s Eyes would prove to be a valuable supporting class text in women’s studies courses at the university level – a book that teaches students everywhere about the rough roads that women have endured in support of this ‘New World.’

Order from amazon.com.

by John Aiello

THE ILLUSTRATED SOULS OF BLACK FOLK. E. B. DuBois. Edited and annotated by Eugene F. Provenzo, Jr. Paradigm Publishers.

Perhaps no book, other than possibly Uncle Tom’s Cabin, has been so instrumental in memorializing the boundaries that exist between the races in America — we have simply not seen another book with the raw sociological impact of Souls of Black Folk.

At the Pan-African Association Conference held in London in July, 1900, DuBois himself asserted that “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line.”

And nowhere is this understanding more evident than in that remarkable Chapter, “Of the Passing of the First Born,” a segment which chronicles the death of DuBois’ infant son from dysentery in 1899. On the morning of his son’s burial, Dubois recalled:

“The trees whispered to the grass, but the children sat with hushed faces. And yet it seemed a ghostly unreal day, — the wraith of Life. We seemed to rumble down an unknown street behind a little white bundle of posies, with the shadow of a song in our ears. The busy city dinned about us; they did not say much, those pale-faced hurrying men and women; they did not say much, — they only glanced and said, ‘Niggers!’ We could not lay him in the ground there in Georgia, for the earth there is strangely red; so we bore him away to the northward, with his flowers and his little folded hands. In vain, in vain! —for where, O God! Beneath thy broad blue sky shall my dark baby rest in peace, — where Reverence dwells, and Goodness and a Freedom that is free ?”

Highly recommended as a primary teaching text in all Sociology courses which explore themes of race, class distinction and equality. Also would prove useful to all libraries at the college-level for its long-term reference value.

Order from amazon.com.

by Frank Aiello

© Frank Aiello. All rights reserved.


Frank Aiello is an attorney who has practiced law in California since the 1970s, including criminal defense, civil and probate work. He holds a History degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Law degree from Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco; he has also studied Anthropology, Sociology and Political Science extensively. Reach him via The Electric Review.

Other Current Oxford Press Publications

THE OXFORD INDIA COMPANION TO SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIAL HISTORY. Edited by Veena Das. Oxford University Press.

This two-volume text contains an excess of 1500 pages which presents a comprehensive overview of the social and cultural framework of India up to the present-day, commenting on everything from the role of the bazaar in Indian life to cultural concepts of the male and female body:

“A woman’s periods of monthly ‘pollution’ are a stigma, her childbearing makes her an unclean vessel, and her physical form makes her dangerous to male society. This articulation of the female body lies, for the most part, in the hands of male informants. In fact, women have an eclectic reservoir of songs, stories and activities that undermine this denigration of the female body. But this is kept in localized, internally facing networks. Women do not openly exhibit themselves in public spaces as men do, they keep covered and minimize exposure, and as a result they are all but invisible in any scene in everyday public life in South Asia.”

(Volume I, page 679)

Such passages serve to bring this sometimes mysterious and often misunderstood region to life, and depict a place that in many ways has resisted the encroachment of the Western World’s influence. Well-edited and impeccably designed, this record of India will serve the academic community as a timeless reference.

Recommended to both college-level and public sector libraries as a general reference text.

Order from amazon.com.

by Frank Aiello

© Frank Aiello. All rights reserved.


Frank Aiello is an attorney who has practiced law in California since the 1970s, including criminal defense, civil and probate work. He holds a History degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Law degree from Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco; he has also studied Anthropology, Sociology and Political Science extensively. Reach him via The Electric Review.

Focusing on The McGraw-Hill Humanities & Social Sciences

From the Editor: McGraw-Hill has been a leader in academic publishing for over a century, with its Medical Science, Social Science (sociology, history, criminal justice, psychology, poli-sci) and Humanities lists among the strongest out there, as evidenced below: books endeared by instructors for their clarity and in depth coverage, these true hallmarks in myriad fields. In the end, these texts completely analyze their subject matter while still being able to address the unique needs of the student-learner.
The Electric Review highly recommends each of them to instructors who teach in these disciplines.

SOCIOLOGY. 10th Edition. Richard T. Schaefer. McGraw-Hill.

The Tenth edition of Richard Schaefer’s Sociology presents an excellent overview of the discipline, which is now one of the most widely explored of the all the social sciences by undergraduate students.

In the course of organizing his text, Schaefer has taken great pains to up-date the focus of his treatise to keep step with the changing perspectives of his readers. Accordingly, especially noteworthy is his chapter on communities and urbanization.

Here, Schaefer discusses the emergence of squatter settlements, which the U.N. estimates account for as much as 40% to 50% of the population in the cities of developing nations.As one might surmise, many of these settlements contain a thriving underground, including local economies, small home-based businesses, local churches, clubs, and even governing bodies.

Contrast this description with Schaefer’s analysis of post-industrial cities in the West, where the primary features are dominance by corporate powers, the emergence of extended electronic networks, and the lack of any sense of place.

As Schaefer states: “The postindustrial city is a city in which global finance and the electronic flow of information dominate the economy” and where “control is centralized in multinational corporations whose influence transcends urban and even national boundaries.”

Schaefer also notes the emergence of the megalopolis, an example of which is found in the 500 mile corridor from Boston south to Washington D.C. accounting for one-sixth of the total population of this country. Yet, some of the new urban sociologists recognize hidden costs in social forces that are guided primarily by economic intent:

“The suburban boom in the post-World War II era was fueled by highway construction and federal housing policies that channeled investment capital into the construction of single-family homes rather than affordable housing in the cities. Similarly, while some observers suggest that the growth of the sun-belt cities is due to a ‘good business climate’, new urban sociologists counter that the term is actually a euphemism for hefty state and local subsidies and antilabor policies…”

Schaefer’s text is noted for both its organization and for the effortless way it imparts complicated theories to the student reader. To this end, the summaries at the end of each chapter (as well as the lists of key terms and the companion-access to McGraw’s Online Resources) round out the vision of this key title.

Recommended as a primary course text in all introductory level sociology courses.

by Frank Aiello

© Frank Aiello. All rights reserved.


Frank Aiello is an attorney who has practiced law in California since the 1970s, including criminal defense, civil and probate work. He holds a History degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Law degree from Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco; he has also studied Anthropology, Sociology and Political Science extensively. Reach him via The Electric Review.

Of Related Interest

SOCIAL PROBLEMS AND THE QUALITY OF LIFE. 10th Edition. Robert Lauer. Jeanette C. Lauer. McGraw-Hill. Like the Stein-Rowe selection, Social Problems confronts the student with some hard questions (questions that are going to need to be answered as we move forward through the kinetic layers of the 21st-century). How does the world impact the choices we make and the enjoyment we get from our wives and kids and parents? Does the stress we are under preclude us from drawing enrichment from art and the act of learning? Are we so worried about health care and having enough cash to make it to the next month that we are ignoring the needs of our elderly and disabled? Where is this war going to take the country over the next decade and how is it going to effect generations to come? Try as you will to ignore the media’s daily deluge of bad news, there is no escape. Accordingly, Lauer and Lauer present a textbook that is on point with the major challenges of the millennium, and the authors seek to draw students out of their cocoons to look at the world with realistic eyes. There are no easy answers and no way around the problems that threaten to devour the world in which we live. The best we can hope for is to gain a better understanding of what is happening around us. Lauer and Lauer’s Social Problems is a natural starting point.

Recommended as a primary teaching text in Sociology courses that set the needs of the individual against the world in turmoil.

Gerhard O. W. Mueller. William S. Laufer. McGraw-Hill. The Lauer-Lauer text reviewed above sets forth many problems now confronting the health of present-day America. Obviously, how to cope with criminality and appropriate penalties for offenders is no small dilemma, as billions of dollars each year are invested in creating a safe and law-abiding society. In this text, the authors present a sharply written overview of our criminal justice system, including chapters on the courts; police systems and the police culture; criminals and the theories of criminal law; lawyers, judges, and the adjudication of cases; and the sentencing of offenders. In addition to these “standard” topics, there is also coverage of material such as community corrections and ways to handle the juvenile Defendant that help to make this title current and relevant — a textbook which looks to bring students into contact with the realization that the system is not by any means perfect. Consequently, searching minds will be needed in order to shift traditional ways of thinking as we move toward a more even-handed and efficient administration of justice.

Recommended as a primary teaching text in introductory-level Administration of Justice courses. Would further serve well as a supporting text in Sociology courses that cover topics of criminality and the penal system.

CORRECTIONS IN THE 21ST CENTURY. Frank Schmalleger. John Ortiz Smykla. McGraw-Hill. In this era of post 9-11 America (and the Patriot Act), our concepts of corrective justice have come under close scrutiny, as lawmakers try to balance the underlying purpose of the Constitution with the need to protect the country against terrorism. Corrections, by Frank Schmalleger and John Ortiz Smykla (two well-respected academicians in the field) explore these ideas of punishment and justice in 21st century America. The major reason this book stands out for classroom use is embodied in its style. Rather than just jump into the oft convoluted theories of law and punishment, the authors here provide a thorough overview of past corrective methods, setting these practices against modern-day thought as a means to show the student that the way we rehabilitate offenders has changed generation-by-generation (changing to accommodate the variances of society). By using high profile cases as actual course material, Schmalleger and Smykla are able to delve deep into the characteristics and structures of our legal system in an interesting fashion. Don’t over-look this feature: The way that these writers are able to hold the attention of the reader cannot be over emphasized, since the study of corrections has traditionally been a dry and difficult area for many students to wade through. Accordingly, Corrections serves to update this material for the eyes of the modern student. Also noteworthy is the analysis of recent vital Supreme Court decisions, in addition to various career profiles that help the young student survey possible avenues for further study.

Recommended for all Administration of Justice programs at the college level. Should further be considered by Police Academies as a supporting class text.

HUMAN SEXUALITY: Diversity in Contemporary America. Bryan Strong, Christine DeVault, Barbara Sayad, William Yarber. McGraw-Hill.

This title is ground-breaking in scope, as it brings the student reader a treatise that stresses the fact that sexuality is neither “uniform” or stereotypical. Instead, in America, diversity is to be both applauded and accepted as we seek our individual sexual identities.

During the last year, diversity and freedom of expression in regard to sexual orientation came barreling to the forefront of the American consciousness, as the issue of gay marriage found its way to the courtroom arena. Thus, this text recognizes that people and their views of sex are unique and should be looked on in broad and liberal terms.

What’s best about Human Sexuality is that the authors have chosen to present the material without judgmental overtones, allowing students to come to terms with the topics in a free and unfettered environment – no fear of having their own perspectives prejudged or scorned.

Obviously, there is a wealth of material here, but the best — and most important — of it deals with contraception and abstinence education, since unwanted teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease remain at epidemic proportions. Also includes the SexSource CD-ROM, which uses short video segments to expand on key sections of the text.

Appropriate for all undergraduate courses introducing students to topics of sexuality. Will be respected and appreciated by students for its honest presentation of the subject.

AGING AND THE LIFE COURSE: An Introduction to Social Gerontology. Jill Quadagno. McGraw-Hill. In light of the increased awareness on the elderly in America, subjects like Alzheimer’s Disease, Medicare, Social Security and Geriatric Healthcare are at the top of everyone’s hot topic list. And in terms of student study of the subject, Aging and the Course of Life is a hallmark text that deserves to be required reading in order to obtain a four-year college degree – it is simply that important. Why so vital? you ask. Well, for starters, it’s the first book we’ve seen to tackle the issues of growing old in these terms: rather then cover the subject in the same old way, Quadagno incorporates thought on how cultural factors and the life choices one makes as a young person come together to determine the quality of the “golden years.” This is a unique platform in that so much has been written about how governmental forces determine our ability to gain happiness and peace-of-mind. And to a partial extent, that platform is an accurate one. But just as important is the role each of us play in the equation: If we make bad choices as young people, we must obviously suffer the consequences as old people. Just as important as any political issue on the table is an individual’s willingness to take some personal responsibility for himself and his actions. Quadagno reminds students of this throughout this well-detailed text, in the hopes of building a mind-set conducive to smart decision-making before “old age” has determined their path. Recommended to all Sociology courses that touch on the aging process.

Each of these selections is recommended to college-level libraries for their immense long-term reference value and readability.

Order from amazon.com.

by John Aiello

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This entry was posted on June 30, 2013 by in Reference and tagged .
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