Book Themes

We have organized the book around five themes or conversations. Each theme includes an introductory essay by us as well as original readings from classical and contemporary theorists. The essays include vignettes on topics ranging from smart phones and social networking sites to the global financial crisis and the digital divide, as well as overviews of key concepts and ideas found in the readings.

Emergence Through Convergence

The classic novel Lord of the Flies helps us see that social order is both a product of our own making and something much more powerful than the sum of its parts. We move from the social facts of Durkheim to more contemporary takes on the enigma of social order.

Networks of Capital

Today’s global financial crisis reminds us that economic troubles have profound consequences for social relationships. Marx sets the stage for a lively discussion of the role the economy plays in our global age, and Wallerstein, Castells, and Bourdieu provide contemporary visions of the many links between the economic and the social.

Pathway to Meltdown

Smart phones are but one example of how our social world is becoming more and more shaped by technology. From the pious Puritans of Weber to the one-dimensional men of the Frankfurt School, we explore the pitfalls and promises of a rationalized, modern society.

Shifting the Paradigm

The production of knowledge on the internet is not as democratic as we might think. Du Bois, de Beauvoir, and more contemporary voices within critical race, postcolonial, and feminist thought remind us the same is true in social theory.

Rise of the Avatar

Our Facebook profiles provide a glimpse of the collective foundations of our individual selves. Mead and Simmel lay the foundations for thinking about the social origins of the self, and Goffman, Foucault, and others provide provocative takes on what identity means in today’s complicated world.