Emergence through convergence

Introductory Essay: This Deserted Island is Out of Order The classic novel The Lord of the Flies helps us see that social order is both a product of our own making and something much more powerful than the sum of its parts. We move from the social facts of Durkheim to more contemporary takes on the enigma of social order.

Berger, Peter. 1967. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Berger extends his theory of social constructionism to illustrate how religion gives cosmic support to more precarious social institutions.

Barry, Dan. “This Land” column. New York Times.

These compelling stories of how communities across America are coping with the recession provide a glimpse into the everyday world of social solidarity. Each of his columns can be read here.


This charming film explores how a 1950s community undergoes widespread social change when two 1990s teenagers enter and begin to disrupt the social fabric. Read more about how it can be used in the classroom here.

The Awful Truth

For vivid examples of “breaching experiments” (with a Marxist twist), check out Michael Moore’s television series, The Awful Truth, in which the filmmaker reveals the absurdity of everyday social situations and exposes powerful institutions. Click here for more information.

The Suicide Tourist

This PBS Frontline documentary (which can be watched in full online) examines the assisted-suicide system in Switzerland, the only country in the world where outsiders can enter for the sole purpose of ending their lives. Consider showing it for a lively discussion for what Durkheim might have said about so-called “suicide tourism.”

The Lost Children of Rockdale County

This PBS Frontline documentary about a 1996 syphilis outbreak in an affluent Atlanta suburb is a poignant depiction of Durkheim’s theory of anomie and the breakdown of social bonds during periods of rapid social change.

A Life Apart: Hasidism in America

A documentary exploring how one Orthodox Jewish subculture maintains a strict sense of the sacred in a secular world. A great film companion to Durkheim’s Elementary Forms of Religious Life.

Devil's Playground

This documentary follows Amish teens as they enter rumspringa—the rite of passage in which they enter the “English” world of sex, drugs, and alcohol at age 16—and decide to remain in or leave their tight-knit communities. Click here for more information.

A Networked World

Today, network analysis has become an increasingly popular method for conceptualizing and studying the dynamics of social order. Former sociology professor and current director of Yahoo!’s Human Social Dynamics group Duncan Watts is one of the leading experts in this area.

Technology and Social Order (and Stephen Colbert)

Sociologist Sherry Turkle is one of the leading experts on how new technologies are affecting the social order. Here she talks about her research and new book on The Colbert Report.

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