The Odyssey Experience: Physical, Social, Psychological, and Spiritual Journeys

Univ of California Press
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This bold and innovative book traces the phenomenon of the "odyssey" experience as it shapes, informs, and defines our lives. Drawing on an astonishing range of examples, Neil J. Smelser focuses on how such experiences enhance our lives and provide us with meaning and dignity. The odyssey experience, as Smelser advances it, is generic, widespread, and recurring. It is a finite period of disengagement from the routines of life and immersion into a simpler, transitory, often collective, usually intense period of involvement that culminates in some kind of regeneration. By examining a variety of topics as part of a larger, overarching phenomenon, Smelser transforms their study from the particular to the comparative. The Odyssey Experience thus reaches beyond a simple description of where and how transformations occur in daily life to offer a profound explanation for why they are there.
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About the author

Neil J. Smelser is University Professor of Sociology Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of numerous books, including The Social Edges of Psychoanalysis, Problematics of Sociology, and Social Paralysis and Social Change, all from UC Press.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Univ of California Press
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Published on
Mar 5, 2009
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Pages
286
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ISBN
9780520943421
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Sociology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER, NAMED BY THE TIMES AS ONE OF "6 BOOKS TO HELP UNDERSTAND TRUMP'S WIN" AND SOON TO BE A MAJOR-MOTION PICTURE DIRECTED BY RON HOWARD

"You will not read a more important book about America this year."—The Economist

"A riveting book."—The Wall Street Journal

"Essential reading."—David Brooks, New York Times

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for more than forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually one of their grandchildren would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that J.D.'s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, never fully escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. With piercing honesty, Vance shows how he himself still carries around the demons of his chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir, with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.

This new edition introduces the social science audiences of a new century to one of the classic highlights of the mid-twentieth century. This is the most general statement of the general theory of action as it was developed by its principle exponent, Talcott Parsons, and his close collaborators who formed the core of the fabled department of social relations at Harvard University. Toward a General Theory of Action is an extremely ambitious formulation of the ingredients, dimensions, and ranges that determine human behavior.

Parsons and Shils enunciate principles that are at the core of contemporary social science preoccupations-including the precarious balance between social integration and conflict. The volume is at once universal in intent and highly personal, an expression of Parsons' thought, one of the most notable sociological theorists of the century. Finally, the book symbolizes the interdisciplinary impulse that typified a widespread belief in the unity of the sciences. This edition includes the collaborative group's introductory statement, Richard Sheldon's essay on the theoretical and philosophical status of the general theory of action, and "Values, Motives and Systems of Action" by Parsons and Shils.

Guy Swanson, writing in the The American Sociological Review, noted that "Parsons and Shils have performed a major service in clearing away many old controversies, in showing the reasonableness of a behavioral foundation for general theory in social science as a whole and in sociology in particular, in clarifying the interrelations among many concepts, and in the insightful interpretation of particular pieces of data." It is testimony to this book's continuing significance that it continues to generate new lines of research and writings.

Talcott Parsons and Edward A. Shils are now deceased. Parsons had a lifelong association with Harvard University, and Shils had an equally long distinguished service at Chicago University in the United States and Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. The special editor for the Transaction edition, Neil J. Smelser is director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, at Stanford University. From 1958 through 1994 he served on the sociology faculty at the University of California at Berkeley. He is author of many books in the areas of social theory, social change, economic sociology, social movements and the sociology of education.
The foundation of this volume is the notion that the several processes of change constituting economic and social development are systematically interrelated. The essence of development is the appearance of rapid rates of increases in many different indices--output per capita, political participation, literacy and the like. These quantitative changes are, however, commonly accompanied by vast changes in the social structure--markets emerge, political bureaucracies arise, and new educational systems appear.

Written by the leading authorities on the subject, this group of papers tackles the causes and consequences of social mobility. Each author brings his particular skills to bear on various aspects of the problem in studies of persons moving from rural to urban settings, from one kind of industry to another and from one prestige level to another. Several of the papers review the theoretical and methodological issues involved in comparative research on social mobility while others compare and contrast traditional and modern stratification systems.

Various papers explore the economic, religious and psychological basis of social mobility, concluding with enquiry into the consequences of rapid mobility, especially in terms of the political stability of developing nations. Because social mobility is a central consideration in any study of economic and social change, every student of change will use this pioneering reference source as a text for all future research. Contributors include Otis Dudley Duncan, Harold L. Wilensky, Michael G. Smith, Bert F. Hoselitz, Wilbert E. Moore, Natalie Rogoff Ramsy, Gideon Sjoberg, Reinhard Bendix, Harry Crockett, David Matza, Lester Seligman, and Gino Germani.

Neil J. Smelser is emeritus professor, Department of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley. Seymour Martin Lipset was professor of sociology and director of the Institute of International Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
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