Book Reviews: Sociology, Psychology, Social Sciences
The Elephant in the Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life
Sometimes people talk about things they shouldn't; far too often, though, people keep quiet about things which should be discussed and brought out into the open. Whether done individually or collectively in a 'conspiracy of silence,' the denial of uncomfortable or embarrassing truths appears to be a common aspect of human social relationships.
One Planet, One People: Beyond 'Us vs. Them'
Human beings have evolved biologically and culturally. Perhaps one of the most important advances in our cultural evolution has been our ability to expand the definition of the 'in' group - the group we consider most deserving of kindness and assistance. Today most people's idea of us is much broader than it was a few thousand years ago. How much further than the circle be increased?
Fathering at Risk
Parenting may be one of the most difficult jobs that anyone can do, but this doesn’t mean that there is an adequate understanding among psychologists, sociologists, and other researchers about what parenting is and what good parenting requires. This is especially true when it comes to fathers and fathering.
Possessions: The History and Uses of Haunting in the Hudson Valley
Haunting is a relatively common phenomenon in America, but especially in New York’s Hudson River Valley. This region is practically teeming with ghosts: Indians, Revolutionary war soldiers, Dutch traders, and more. What is so special about this area that it would be so haunted? Why are ghosts attracted to it - or, perhaps more accurately, why are the people here attracted to ghosts?
The Last, Best Hope: a Democracy Reader
Just what is the basis of democracy - what are the conditions necessary for it and what is the relationship between morality and democratic ideals? Issues like these are critical for the future of democracy in the 21st Century, but you won't often find people discussing them.
The Triumph of Sociobiology
Is sociobiology a science or an ideology? Does it provide important insights into the evolutionary development and biological bases for human and animal behavior, or is it merely a tool for the elite to justify social inequalities? Such questions can reveal how polarized the debate over sociobiology can be: the subject has received quite a lot...
We are all surrounded every day by the culture industry - it influences what we eat, what we read, where we work, indeed many of our basic desires. So why haven't most people heard about it? In fact they have, although not by the term "culture industry" - this is a term created to replace the more common "mass culture" (today, "pop culture") for...
Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages
Everyone knows about language - the ability to use language is, in fact, one of the defining characteristics of the human species, something glimpsed only in rudimentary forms in other animals. Humans have developed an incredible variety of languages over the millennia, but something rather disturbing is occurring: a great many languages are...
Science Wars: Debating Scientific Knowledge and Technology
Every day, people in America make extensive use of technology and science, often when they aren't aware of it. Science and technology are arguably two of the most important creations of humanity. Yet perhaps only 'arguably,' because some argue that neither are as great as imagined. Instead, they are false idols or even con jobs perpetuated by an...
What is Wrong with Jung?
What are Jung's contributions worth? Are they true? Have they shed any light on the so-called mysteries of the human mind? And how does Jung's work look in the light of today's science and humanistic studies? All of these are important questions, and Don McGowan addresses them in a thorough analysis of Jung's work and ideas.
Unauthorized Freud: Doubters Confront a Legend
Freud is widely considered to be one of the "giants" of the modern human sciences. Is this a justified evaluation - did he really provide new and important insights into the human mind? Or is he rather more of a charlatan, better at self-aggrandizement than self-analysis?
Stigma: How We Treat Outsiders
We are all familiar with the stigmatization of people in society. Wherever we look, there are those who are defined outside society's mainstream or moral norms because of some of the things they do, or because of things about them which they cannot change. This labeling can encourage prejudice and discrimination and can certainly impact how people are able to view themselves.
The Origin of Human Social Institutions
A central, if not the central, question in the study of human social evolution is that of the origin of our social institutions. Early in our history, simple groups of hunters and gatherers developed the complex societies of the Neolithic Era. But how and why did this occur? How and why did marriage develop? How and why did religion develop?
Flat Broke With Children: Women in the Age of Welfare Reform
Welfare reform in the United States has been hailed as a great success, reducing the number of people on the welfare rolls from 4.4 million families in 1996 to 2.1 million in 2001. But is the number of people on welfare really the only appropriate measure of "success," and if not, how do the efforts at reform measure up against other criteria?
From Culture to Ethnicity to Conflict
It is almost an article of faith today that modern conflicts coalesce around ethnic divisions rather than political disagreements and that, in turn, these ethnic divisions are more ancient in origin than any contemporary political conflicts have been. But is this true?
Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide
Humans have committed great evil against other human beings over the course of millennia, but many outstanding examples occurred during just the 20th century. Such evil is not, however, the standard means by which people relate to one another - usually people are quite a bit more civil and kind. How is it that such behaviors are left behind and truly heinous barbarism develops?
Culture Wars and the Global Village
People often claim that they are interested in living in peace, but why then do we continue to have so much conflict in areas like the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa and other areas? Is there something about human nature which makes conflict inevitable and peace impossible? According to Carl Coon, the answers lie not so much in human biology, but in the development of human culture.
The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity
To some, monogamous relationships - particularly in the context of marriage - are the natural state of human beings and the foundation of civilization. Others, however, find the idea of a single mate to be boring and oppressive, prefering instead to seek multiple partners and varied experiences. Which perspective is most accurate - are people...