- Paperback: 640 pages
- Publisher: Waveland Press, Inc.; 2nd edition (July 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1577663071
- ISBN-13: 978-1577663072
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,052 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Masters of Sociological Thought: Ideas in Historical and Social Context 2nd Edition
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"Coser's Masters is a theory book that is the very best of its kind. Nobody does theory so well, especially for undergraduates. A diamond of the first order." --Alexandra Maryanski, University of California, Riverside
From the Publisher
Titles of related interest also from Waveland Press: Coser-Rosenberg, Sociological Theory: A Book of Readings, Fifth Edition (ISBN 9780881334579) and Lengermann-Niebrugge, The Women Founders: Sociology and Social Theory 1830-1930, A Text/Reader (ISBN 9781577665090).
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The main thesis of this book is clearly stated in a quote by Goethe preceding the forward, "Was Du Erebt von Deinen Vaetern hast, erwirb es, um es zu besitzen" or "What you have inherited from your fathers, you must earn in order to possess" (Coser, 1977). Coser attempts to portray sociology from its conception to its adulthood through a chronological discovery of its primary participants and their respective theories. There are two aspects of this review, the first focuses on the structure of the book and the second focuses on the content.
The structure of book utilizes a separate chapter for individual masters with the exception of Thomas and Znaniecki who share one. Each chapter begins with an overview of the each master's work that explains in summary style the main ideas or contributions that each contributed to the discipline. The second section of each chapter offers a brief biography of each master as well discusses any trials and tribulations he may have experienced growing up. The biography provides background into the master's childhood, including family members, friends, and co-workers. That is followed by an intellectual context section that describes the historical time period of the master and where he fits into the period philosophically. It relates the master's work to others in the period, which demonstrates the importance of peer review [not clear why] that has become so important in today's social sciences. This section additionally discusses the master's acceptance or disapproval of others'] theories and how it relates to his own work. This is accomplished by showing how another theory is used by the master to create a new or enhanced theory. This master used a theory completely disproved as motivation to research a better theory or he may have dissected a theory to use only that which he thought was worthy and reformed a new theory. This section was interesting to read in that it ties together the masters to each other in a chronological manner. This clearly shows how each master used his inheritance of sociological knowledge in such a manner to earn the right to possess it and to eventually bequeath it to the next generation of masters. The final section, social context, addresses the sociological aspects of each master. The social-economic status of each master as well as that of his parents are detailed. The importance that events had on the master, such as revolution, war, discrimination, religious evolutions, etc. are discussed as well. This section explains clearly how such events may have shaped the minds of each master. The author takes some liberty with assumption in this section that are speculative due to a lack of primary material, for example, Coser states that "Little is known about Durkheim's background or about his family, but information is available about the Jewish community in eastern France where Durkheim was born and raised" (p. 161). While this method may be useful for most individuals from within the Jewish community of a particular geographic location, the very rebellious nature of those early masters of sociology would create problems when using stereotype to obtain their background. The most important aspect that this section addresses is the relation the master has with his peers as well as the academic community. It discusses whether the master is accepted, respected, compensated, advanced, etc. which plays an important role in motivations for the master as well as his attitude towards the field.
I found it both easy and difficult to understand the master's work sections. One master's work or theories was relatively easy to comprehend from such a brief description while others should have had additional discussion. I found myself wishing for more in one chapter while hoping to just be done with it in another. It would have been impossible to provide the necessary writings for each master and yet still maintain a
publishable work. This has, however, created a clearly obvious reading wish list for myself. I discovered a major interest in Comte, Durkheim, Weber, Veblen, and Sorokin.
The content of the book begins with the realization of the idea of sociology and progresses with theory to explain sociology as a discipline. Theory is enhanced with the emergence of terms, collection methods, analysis theories, etc. to form a science. The struggle to attain legitimacy creates an academic revolution that redirects the desires of the early masters who longed for the same in their respective milieu. Finally the discipline attains respectability and legitimacy and can slowly progress through persistent and sometimes very aggressive peer review. The process by which sociology was conceived and explained by Coser can be effectively compared to how one today will realize a new piece of sociological work.
I too suffer as did Coser in attempting to explain each master's theories adequately within writing a novel for a review. I can, however, offer what I feel are the ideas from this book that will occupy my thoughts for the foreseeable future.
The idea proposed by Durkheim that God is collectively reflected in our idea of society has merit. Society has taken on its own form and as we progressed from one stage to the next we could not explain this feeling of society. Religion was born to explain this phenomenon. I feel there is something within this theory to elaborate on. While I would not proclaim to say God has been replaced by the spiritual thing we call society, I would
offer that maybe society is a collective soul in which God exists.
In addition and in conclusion, just as Comte believes one must study society as a whole rather than to study just one man we need to study all the masters as well as the milieu in which they developed to have a thorough understanding of sociology.
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It is simply a joke that this volume doesn't include anything on Charelotte...Read more