Barnes successfully applies interactionist analysis, formerly used mostly for micro-social settings, to macro-phenomena like the formation of status groups, the origin of social movements, the politics of class formation, and the dynamics of bureaucratic action. He shows how these phenomena are inexplicable in terms of exclusively cultural- functional or choice-theoretic methods: they can be understood only by showing how norms emerge through interaction. Barnes has constructed a coherent and learned vision of the fundamentals of social theory that will excite not only sociologists but all social scientists and their students.
Originally published in 1995.
The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.
In this penetrating and assured book, one of the leading commentators in the field argues that social theory is moving in the wrong direction in its reflections on human freedom and autonomy. It has borrowed notions of 'agency' and 'choice' from everyday discourse, but increasingly it puts a misconceived individualistic gloss upon them. Against this, Barnes unequivocally identifies human beings as social agents in a profound sense, and emphasises the vital importance of their sociability. Notions of 'agency', 'freedom' and 'choice' have to be understood by reference to their role in communicative interaction; they are key components of the discourse through which human beings identify each other, and have effects upon each other, as social agents.
These are central themes in all the social sciences. And Understanding Agency addresses them in a more focused way than any other book. It is a refreshingly different look at social theory that will be widely debated. Barnes' account is a model of well-informed and wide-ranging analysis.
"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.
Barry Barnes takes the classic writings in the sociology of knowledge – by Marx, Lukács, Weber, Mannheim, Goldmann, Habermas and others – and uses them as resources in coming to grips with what he regards as the currently most interesting and significant questions in this area. This approach reflects one of the principal themes of the book itself. Knowledge, it is argued, is best treated as a resource available to those possessing it. This is the best perspective from which to understand its relationship to action and its historical significance; it is a perspective which avoids the problems of holding that knowledge is derivative, as well as those generated by the view that knowledge is a strong determinant of consciousness. the result is an unusual textbook, particularly valuable when read in conjunction with the original works it discusses.
These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much-heralded scholar who studies the riddles of everyday life—from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing—and whose conclusions turn conventional wisdom on its head.
Freakonomics is a groundbreaking collaboration between Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning author and journalist. They usually begin with a mountain of data and a simple question. Some of these questions concern life-and-death issues; others have an admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study contained in this book: Freakonomics.
Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, Levitt and Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives—how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they explore the hidden side of . . . well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher. The secrets of the Ku Klux Klan.
What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world, despite a great deal of complexity and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and—if the right questions are asked—is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking.
Freakonomics establishes this unconventional premise: If morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work. It is true that readers of this book will be armed with enough riddles and stories to last a thousand cocktail parties. But Freakonomics can provide more than that. It will literally redefine the way we view the modern world.
Bonus material added to the revised and expanded 2006 editionThe original New York Times Magazine article about Steven D. Levitt by Stephen J. Dubner, which led to the creation of this book.Seven “Freakonomics” columns written for the New York Times Magazine, published between August 2005 and April 2006.Selected entries from the Freakonomics blog, posted between April 2005 and May 2006 at http://www.freakonomics.com/blog/.