Keith Douglas' Web Page

About me Find out who I am and what I do.
My resumé A copy of my resumé and other documentation about my education and work experience for employers and the curious.
Reviews, theses, articles, presentations A collection of papers from my work, categorized and annotated.
Current research projects What I am currently working on, including some non-research material.
Interesting people People professionally "connected" to me in some way.
Interesting organizations Organizations I am "connected" to. (Some rather loosely.)
Intellectual/professional influences Influences on my work, including an organization chart. Here you can also buy many good books on philosophy and other subjects via amazon.com. I have included brief reviews of hundreds of books.
Professional resources Research sources, amazon.com associates programs, etc.
What is the philosophy of computing? A brief introduction to my primary professional interest.
My intellectual heroes A partial list of important people. Limited to the dead.
My educational philosophy As a sometime teacher I've developed one. Includes book resources.

Book Influences - Sociology

Title
Author
Purchase / Enjoy Cover
Comment
Cultural Boundaries of Science: Credibility on the Line Gieryn See my amazon.com review.
Emile Durkheim on Morality and Society Bellah, ed. This slim volume of Durkheim exerpts deals with the famed sociologist's views on the social origins of religion, morality, concepts and science itself (amongst other topics). Durkheim has a clear notion of emergence, but also is clearly an idealist (alas): he says flat out that the universe only exists when thought of. Also included is a long introduction by Bellah to stage set and provide a few details about Durkheim's background. A final flaw: unfortunately, there is no index.
From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology Gerth and Mills (eds.) This substantial collection of papers and exerpts of Weber gives a clear illustration of the breadth of his thought: from examining power relations, to discussions of social psychology of religion, to the beginnings of compartive sociology, Weber's erudition shines despite the details being dated. This collection thus makes an excellent resource for the history of social thought. Also valuable is a very long (~70 pages) introduction to Weber's life and work. (Note: I've linked to a recent version, not the older one my sister passed along which I discuss here.)
Gods in the Global Village Kurtz Religion in the modern world.
Knowledge From What? Theories and Methods in Social Research. Phillips A critique of certain sociological methods as of c. 1970, most noticably the interview and the survey. These criticisms seem to be on the money, though more than 30 years later, obvious. The author's recommended replacements are shaky, however. Phenomenological approaches are amongst them, and Phillips does not adequately explore the "superficiality" problem that results. He does, to his credit, recognize that verstehen requires psychological hypotheses, but does not discuss in any detail how they are to guide the sociologist. Phillips' welcome reminder that conceptual resources of social groups is tacit and must be learned patiently and in part through proper socialization is ignored by many sociologists of science. I suspect that criticisms like Phillips' have lead in some circles to overreaction.
Political Sociology: Structure and Process Kourvetaris This is a brief, breezy introduction to how social systems generally interact through systems particularly devoted to power. One weakness in it is immediate from the subject matter: while one sub-subject (military sociology, which seems to be the author's speciality) has a clear topic, the nature of political sociology is not clear. The book reads like one rather hastily written annotated bibliography. On the other hand, one interesting (to me at least) feature is the recognition that some of the topics have roots in those traditionally regarded as philosophers. Unfortunately, with all the sloppy writing and repetition, I cannot recommend this book very highly at all. (And this is self-described as being suitable for graduate students in sociology and political science? Astonishing. I can only assume that this is arrogance.)
Social Deviance: An Integrated Approach Rosenberg and Lewis This book is remarkably clear and levelheaded for a sociology textbook on a very contested topic. Does stray unnecessarily into subjectivism but also contradictorially, so in a way not as bad as outright subjectivist blather. The "integrated" of the title can refer both to the fact that many different approaches (some incompatible, and some only compatible because they likely are about different things, of which more later) are discussed and also that evaluation of the approaches ("theories", though none are presented hypothetico-deductively) are done as the approaches are discussed. This, as the authors themselves point out, is a more useful approach than dividing the book in two. The only substantial weakness of the book concerns precisifying the subject matter. The authors admit that different authors have different "definitions" of deviance; to a logician (of which I can be sort of one) this suggests that we don't know that they are talking about the same thing. In fact, the authors suggest the same; if so, why are they discussed in the same book? Merely because they all used the word "deviance"? I sure hope not, but it looks that way. Put slightly differently, it is unclear what crime, fringe behaviour that isn't crime, etc. and in general all the activities described have in common, if anything.
Societies: A Multi-Cultural Reader Morrill A small book of descriptions of many social practices around the world.
Sociology and Religion Greeley (ed.) A collection of papers on the sociology of religion, including some by Freud, Durkheim, etc. A remarkable piece about masochism and religion is one of the more shocking - at least to some people.
Sociology: A Brief Introduction Thio A pretty banal introduction to sociology. Includes an absolutely ludicrous defense of a very strong form of the "social construction of reality".
The Marx-Engels Reader (2e) Tucker (ed.) A collection of (in some cases partial) writings by the founders of one branch of communist thought. It is important to realize that at least during the 19th century (superficially?) similar ideas were available from a variety of sources. Marx (and Engels) is at his best when describing the horrific conditions he wants changed, but substantially more vague and dangerous when proposing substantial changes to replace the conditions. Exercise to the reader: what conditions have changed and where and why. Note: Is slightly redundant with the volume on this page.
The Media Society Eaman A Canadian focused book on what is called "communication studies", which I have placed as a branch of sociology. Discussed are what the relationship between media and the state ought to be, what news is, what communication is, etc. The latter section relies on secondary sources to discusses Shannon, Weaver and cybernetic/engineering approaches to communication and mangles everything in the area. Other than that, the book is a useful (although in many ways, dated) introduction and presents four viewpoints on each subject, a useful starting point for the media studies student.
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism Weber An English translation (with translator's introduction) of what is probably the most famous work of sociology ever. It is also one of the most misunderstood: Weber distinguishes carefully between different sorts of wealth aquisition and arrangements. It is difficult to say how much merit the theses currently have, as the view defended is not entirely clear. He does not naively claim that Protestantism gave rise to capitalism as we understand it; rather the word "spirit" (Geist) is crucial. Think of it as something like "the informing part" and you will see the vague idea he must have had in mind. In that way even "mind of capitalism" almost works as a translation too, if it didn't read so odd in English.
The Social Bond: An Introduction to the Study of Society Nisbet A systematic (sensu Bunge, basically), reasonably clear, non-subjectivist, introductory sociology textbook. The volume begins with a discussion of science and how and why it is necessary. This starts the use of the repeated analogy between molecules and social systems and hence also an analogy chemistry and sociology. Another chapter also analyzes (briefly) the work of some previous great sociologists. After that, the main part of the book is twelve chapters on the maintenance and destruction of social systems. Unlike some intro books this is not endless data of the form "and X is like Y" but instead teaches a toolkit of useful sociological concepts. Alas, all this good stuff is marred by the style (which could be adopted again) and the book being 40 years out of date examplewise.
Unknown Gods Bibby Sociology of religion in Canada.

 

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