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Thinking about Sociology

A Critical Introduction, Second Edition

Karen L. Anderson

Now in its second edition, Thinking about Sociology continues to provide a critical and in-depth introduction to the core concepts, topics, and skills central to the discipline of sociology today. Using a well-rounded and accessible approach, author Karen Anderson expertly guides readers through a range of sociological perspectives while exploring issues of socialization, interpersonal and group interaction, cultural influence, difference and inequality, and social change. Providing students with the foundation they need to develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, Thinking about Sociology challenges readers to re-evaluate their thoughts and assumptions about their own lives and the social world around them.

Readership : Suitable for first-year introductory sociology courses.


  • "Karen Anderson's Thinking about Sociology is the best introduction to sociology available for students today."
    --Sean Ashley, Capilano University

  • "[Thinking about Sociology] has made me excited to teach intro sociology all over again! I found the approach to sociology presented in this text refreshing and innovative."
    --Dale Ballucci, Western University

1. The Sociological Perspective
Learning Objectives
Introduction: The Sociological Perspective and Its Core Knowledge Base
- Core Concepts
- Core Skills
- Core Topics
A Core Sociological Concept: The Social Construction of Reality
- Proposition 1: Society Is a Human Product
- Proposition 2: All Human Activity Is Habitualized, and This Habitualization Is the Groundwork for Institutionalization
A Second Core Sociological Concept: The Sociological Imagination
- The Great Depression: A Public Issue (NEW)
- "Reality" and the Sociological Imagination
Contributions from Philosophy
Applying a Sociological Perspective: Three Examples
- Example 1: Individualism
- Example 2: Racial Prejudice
- Example 3: Romantic Love
2. Critical Sociological Thinking
Learning Objectives
Critical Thinking in Historical Perspective
Characteristics and Habits of a Critical Thinker
- Independence of Mind
- Intellectual Curiosity
- Intellectual Courage
- Intellectual Humility
- Intellectual Empathy
- Intellectual Perseverance
- Reflexive Disposition
Critical Sociological Thinking
- Example 1 of Critical Sociological Thinking: The Socially
- Constructed Nature of Media Reports about Climate Change in Canada (NEW)
- Example 2 of Critical Sociological Thinking: Who Goes to University and Why?
- Example 3 of Critical Sociological Thinking: Canadian Multiculturalism in Crisis
- Example 4 of Critical Sociological Thinking: The Social Determinants of Health (NEW)
3. Quantitative and Qualitative Research Strategies
Learning Objectives
General Factors Influencing Sociological Research
- Theory
- Epistemology
- Values
- Ontology
- Politics (NEW)
- Practical Considerations (NEW)
Quantitative Research Strategy
- Deductive Theory
- Positivist Epistemological Orientation
- Objectivist Ontological Orientation
- Value Neutrality
Theory, Ontology, Epistemology, and Quantitative Research
- Émile Durkheim on Suicide
- Durkheim and Suicide Today
Qualitative Research Strategy
- Inductive Theory
- Interpretivist Epistemological Orientation
- Constructivism as an Ontological Orientation
- Value Relevance
4. Research Design and Research Methods
Learning Objectives
Research Design
- The Simple Case Study
- The Longitudinal Study
- The Comparison Study (or Cross Sectional Study)
- The Longitudinal Comparison Study
- Experimental Research
Research Methods
Research Methods Used with a Quantitative Research Strategy
- Surveys, Questionnaires, and Interviews
Research Methods Used with a Qualitative Research Strategy
- Interview, Group Discussion, and Observation: Learning to Labour
- Participatory Action Research (PAR)
- Critical Discourse Analysis
- Institutional Ethnography
Research Ethics
5. The Beginnings of Sociology and the Contributions of Émile Durkheim
Learning Objectives
- Political Revolutions
- The Industrial Revolution and the Rise of Capitalism
- The Rise of Socialism
- Urbanization
- Religion
- The Growth of Science
Henri de Saint-Simon and the Study of Industrial Society
Auguste Comte and the Founding of "Sociology"
Littré and the Société de Sociologie: Sociology as Political Practice
Harriet Martineau: Methods of Sociological Research
The Contributions of Émile Durkheim
- Society
- Social Facts
- The Sociological Method
- Social Norms and Anomie
- A Critique of Durkheim
The Beginnings of Canadian Sociology
6. Karl Marx and Max Weber
Karl Marx and Dialectical Materialism
- Intellectual Influences
- Friedrich Engels
- Historical Materialism
- Marx's Analysis of the Capitalist Mode of Production
- Why Marx Is Still Relevant to Sociologists Today
- Why Marx Is Still Relevant to Sociologists Today
Max Weber and Interpretive Sociology
- Intellectual Influences
- Themes in Weber's Work
- Value-Free Sociology: Is Objectivity Possible?
- Weber's Significance Today
Marx and Weber Compared
7. The Social Interactionist Perspective
The Social Interactionist Perspective
Social Interactionism and the Contributions of George Herbert Mead
- Intellectual Influences
Mead's Sociology
- Meaning Is a "Conversation of Gestures"
- Human Communication Involves "Significant Symbols" and Language
- Mind and "Taking the Role of the Other"
- The "Emergent" Self
- Elementary Selves and the Unified Self
- The Two Phases of the Self: The "I" and the "Me"
- Stages in the Development of the Self: Play, Game, and the "Generalized Other"
- Society Emerges Out of Ongoing Human Social Interactions
Two Current Examples of Social-Interactionist Research
- Iranian Immigrants' Perception of Sexuality in Canada
- A Social-Interactionist Perspective on Time and Collective Memory
8. Socialization and the Young Child
The Pre-Socialized Infant
Are Humans Social from Birth?
- Mirror Neurons (NEW)
Feral and Abandoned Children
- The Wild Boy of Aveyron
- Genie
Two Theories of Early Socialization: Attachment Theory and Intersubjectivity
- John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth, and Attachment Theory
- The Intersubjective View of the Social Infant
Nineteenth-Century Concerns Compared with Contemporary Concerns
9. Social Performance and Interaction Rituals
Learning Objectives
Socialization as an Active Process
- Social Actor
- Status and Status Set
- Role
Socialization as a Product: The Presentation of Self and Performance
- Dramaturgical Metaphor: Social Interaction as Performance
- Impression Management
- Teams
- Face Work and Face-Saving Interchanges
Interaction Rituals
- The Bridal Shower as an Interaction Ritual
10. Culture
Learning Objectives
Culture as an All-Pervasive Way of Life
Culture as a "Tool Kit"
- Crossing Cultural Barriers
The Production-of-Culture Perspective
- Culture and Identity: Canadian Mohawk Youth and Western Pop Culture
Culture and Human Embodiment
- Death and Culture
- Memory and Culture
11. Social Structure and Social Agency
Learning Objectives
Social Structure
- Structural Functionalism
- The Revolt against Functionalist Theory
Social Structure and Agency
- Shoppers and the Supermarket
- Anthony Giddens and Structuration Theory
- Pierre Bourdieu and "Habitus"
Social Network Analysis
The "Greying" of the Canadian Population
- The Social Networks of Elderly Canadians
12. Social Inequality, Stratification, and Class
Learning Objectives
Social Stratification in Canada as Measured by Income Inequality
- The "Poverty Line" (NEW)
- Child and Family Poverty in Canada
- Income Inequality in Canada
- Regional Disparities
Wealth Inequality in Canada
Social Class
- Class and the Capitalist Mode of Production in the Work of Karl Marx
- Max Weber on "Class" and "Status"
Contemporary Sociologists on Social Class
- Erik Olin Wright on Class and Occupation
- Peter Kaufman: The Reproduction of Class
- Identity and Social Mobility
- Pierre Bourdieu: Class, Culture, and "Taste"
Contributing Factors to Social Inequality
13. Sex and Sexual Orientation
Learning Objectives
Biological Sex and Social Behaviour
- Genetic Differences
- Differences in Cognitive Capacities and Behaviours
How Many Sexes Are There?
- One-Sex and Two-Sex Models
- The Third Sex/Gender: Two-Spirit People in Native North American Societies
Intersex, Transgender, and Transsexual Issues
Sexual Orientation
- Causes of Sexual Orientation
- Homophobia
- Non-Heteronormative Relations
14. Gender Difference and Inequality
Learning Objectives
Understanding Gender and Sex
Gender and the Classical Tradition in Sociology: A Focus on Innate Differences
- Comte, Durkheim, and Engels: Women, Men, and the <"Fathers>" of Sociology
- Functionalism, Parsons, and the Biological Basis of Sex Roles
Functionalism, Parsons, and the Biological Basis of Sex Roles
Re-defining Gender: Feminist Contributions
- Gender as "Performance": Esther Newton and Judith Butler
Gender Stereotyping
Doing Gender
Gender Stratification
- Employment and Earnings
- Unpaid Domestic Work, Child Care, and Senior Care
- Gender and Politics
A Gender Revolution?
- Marriage, Work, and Family Roles
- Young Adults' Views on the Future of Home and Work
15. Race and Ethnicity in Canada
Learning Objectives
Race: What Geneticists Have to Say
Social Kinship versus Genetic Kinship
Race: A Social Construct
- Racialization
- Racialization in the Canadian Context: Aboriginal Peoples
- How Race Is Constructed Socially
Race as a Stratifying Practice in Social Institutions
- The Privileges of "Whiteness"
The Social Construction of Multi-Racial Identity
- Study Background
- Reflected Appraisals
- "Public" versus "Internalized" Identities
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism
- Institutional (Systemic) Racism and Discrimination (NEW)
- Globalization, Transnationalism, and Mexican Farm Workers in Canada (NEW)
Ethnicity, Minorities, and Ethnic Diversity in Canada
- Ethnicity
- Minorities (NEW)
- Ethnic Diversity (NEW)
- Ethnic Discrimination in Canada: The Case of Employment
16. Deviance and Crime (NEW)
Learning Objectives
Social Foundations of Deviance
- Deviance Is Socially Constructed
- An Entire Status Group May Be Defined as Deviant
- Individuals Considered Deviant in One Context May Be Considered Conformist in Another
Sociological Perspectives on Deviance and Crime
- Structural-Functionalist Perspective
- Conflict/Critical Perspective
- Symbolic Interactionist Perspective
- Deviance and Stigma
The Sociology of Sexualities: Changing Definitions of "Deviance"
Crime and Criminology
- Differential Association
- Self-Control Theory and Social Learning Theory
- Critical Feminist Criminology
Classification of Crimes
- Legal Classifications
- Sociological Classifications
Demographics and Crime
- Age
- Gender
- Regional Differences
- Ethnicity, "Race," and Over-Representation
17. Popular, Mass, and Elite Cultures, and Mass Media
Learning Objectives
Popular Culture
Elite/High Culture (NEW)
Mass Culture (NEW)
- Mass Culture and the Industrial Revolution
- The Communication of Mass Culture: From One-to-One and Many-to-Many Relations
Mass Media and the Communication and Consumption of Cultural "Goods and Services"
- Mass Customization (NEW)
- The Three Screens
Mass Media Violence and Social Behaviour
- Mass Media and Violence
- Some Research Questions
- Moving Beyond the Debates (NEW)
18. The Internet, Social Media, and Social Networking
Learning Objectives
The Internet, the Web, and Social Media
Social Media Trends and Behavior (NEW)
- Example 1. Social Media, Data Collection and the Creation of Collective Intelligence
- Example 2. Social Media and Social Protest: The 2010 Toronto G-20 Summit
- Example 3. Social Media and Social Influence in Canadian Politics (NEW)
Social Networking
- Social Networking Sites and News Consumption (NEW)
Race, Class, and Social Networking
- Social Capital and Social Networking Sites
- Mediated and Co-Present Social Interaction Rituals
Privacy and Social Networking (NEW)
19. Sociologists and Social Activism
Learning Objectives
The Role of Sociological Inquiry Today
Four Types of Sociological Knowledge
- Sociology as a Combat Sport (NEW)
Making Sociology Relevant
John Porter and Classic Canadian "Public Sociology"
Research for Whom and to What Purpose? Sociologists in Action
- Research and Advocacy in Thunder Bay
- Environmental Justice
- Public Sociology and the Case of CCTV: Some Challenges (NEW)
Explanatory Stories: Charles Tilly on Making Sociology Relevant

Instructor's Manual
For each chapter:
- Lecture outline
- 5-10 learning objectives
- 5-10 key concepts and names
- 5-10 concepts for discussion or debate
- 5-10 teaching aids and media resources
- 3-5 suggested class activities
Student Study Guide
For each chapter:
- Chapter summary
- 5-10 learning objectives
- 5-10 key terms and concepts
- 7-10 annotated further readings and websites
- Self-assessment quiz containing:
-- 5-10 multiple choice questions
-- 5-10 true-or-false questions
-- 5 fill-in-the-blank questions
-- 5-10 short answer questions
PowerPoint Slides
- 30-35 slides per chapter summarize key points and incorporate figures, tables, and photos from the book
Sociology Video Collection
- 22 streaming videos with accompanying discussion questions and assignments
Test Generator/Test Bank
For each chapter:
- 30 multiple choice questions
- 25-30 true-or-false questions
- 25-30 short answer questions
- 3-5 essay questions
E-Book (ISBN 9780199014835)

Karen Anderson is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at York University, where she has taught since 1988. She completed her PhD at the University of Toronto and specializes in sex and gender systems, classical, contemporary, and feminist theory, as well as social change and social history. Her current research interests include education, pedagogy, and new technologies. Between 2007 and 2010 she was a research fellow at York University's Centre for the Support of Teaching, where she conducted research on teaching large introductory university classes. She has authored two books, as well as numerous book chapters and journal articles.

Imagining Sociology - Catherine Corrigall-Brown
Sociology - Edited by Lorne Tepperman and Patrizia Albanese
Starting Points - Lorne Tepperman
Foundations of Sociology - John Steckley
Principles of Sociology - Edited by Lorne Tepperman and Patrizia Albanese
Elements of Sociology - John Steckley
Introducing Sociology - Murray Knuttila and Andre Magnan
Reading Sociology - Edited by Patrizia Albanese, Lorne Tepperman and Emily Alexander
Questioning Sociology - Edited by Myra J. Hird and George Pavlich
Making Sense in the Social Sciences - Margot Northey, Lorne Tepperman and Patrizia Albanese
Writing in the Social Sciences - Jake Muller

Special Features

  • Encourages critical thinking by asking students to re-evaluate their taken-for-granted beliefs and develop a critical approach that can be applied in the classroom and beyond.
  • In-depth explorations of topics of particular significance such as sexuality (Ch. 13), gender (Ch. 14), popular culture (Ch. 17), and social media (Ch. 18), along with a wealth of Canadian examples throughout, make this a relevant introduction for today's students.
  • Balanced classic and contemporary coverage pairs cutting-edge research and examples alongside sociology's foundational concepts, offering students an in-depth look at the discipline's past, present, and future trends.
  • Connects theory to practice, exploring how core concepts are expressed in the real world.
  • Profiles in Sociology boxes offer students insight into the lives and work of some of the discipline's major figures--Comte, Durkheim, Mills, Porter--as well as other lesser-known sociologists who have made important contributions to the discipline.
  • Studies in Social Research boxes highlight current issues, ranging from becoming a professional teacher to pre-adolescent smoking, helping students see what sociological research looks like in the field.
  • Thorough coverage of research methods--with two chapters on research methods as well as Studies in Social Research boxes, this book gives students a clear picture of what sociological research looks like in the field. (Ch 3 & 4)
New to this Edition
  • New chapter on crime and deviance offers insight into varied sociological perspectives on key topics, examining everything from the social foundations of deviance to the influences of demographic variables on crime. (Ch. 16)
  • Thoroughly updated data, theory, visuals, and research. Now includes more topics that are of interest to students, such as social media, globalization, and health.