Reading Sources

Wolff, Jonathan. 2002. Why Read Marx Today? New York: Oxford University Press.

Book Theme: 

A political theorist gives great answers to the question of Marx’s relevance for today’s world.

Wacquant, Loic. 2004. Body and Soul: Ethnographic Notebooks of an Apprentice-Boxer. New York: Oxford University Press.

Book Theme: 

This first-hand account of Wacquant’s foray into amateur boxing examines the construction of the “pugilist habitus” in a Chicago gym.

Seabrook, John. 1999, September 20. “Nobrow Culture.” The New Yorker. 104.

Book Theme: 

A cultural critic’s interesting take on cultural capital and the fate of “taste” in America’s consumerist society. A nice addition to the readings from Bourdieu. The full text is available at Seabrook’s website.

Meyer, John W. 2004. “The Nation as Babbitt: How Countries Conform.” Contexts 3(3): 42–47.

Book Theme: 

This short, accessible essay from the prolific Stanford sociologist of institutions provides a more Durkheimian take on globalization. Likely to stimulate some good discussion when paired with Wallerstein.

Johnson, Steven. 2006. The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World. New York: Riverhead Books.

Book Theme: 

Johnson’s book about a deadly cholera outbreak in 1850s London contains vivid prose about the living conditions of England’s working class (the first chapter, “The Night-Soil Men” is particularly good). A great way to illustrate to students the circumstances Marx was writing about in his critiques of capitalism. The story also illustrates the importance of social capital.

Harvey, David. 2010. The Enigma of Capital: And the Crises of Capitalism. New York: Oxford University Press.

Book Theme: 

Harvey, one of the most influential social theorists living today, brilliantly extends Marx’s insights on capitalism to the recent financial crisis. Also recommended: A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2005, Oxford).

Giddens, Anthony. 2002. Runaway World: How Globalization is Reshaping Our Lives. New York: Routledge.

Book Theme: 

A powerful take on globalization from one of the most prolific theorists of our time. 

Frank, Thomas and David Mulcahey. 1997. “Consolidated Deviance, Inc.” Pp. 72–78 in Commodify Your Dissent: Salvos from The Baffler, edited by Thomas Frank and Matt Weiland. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Book Theme: 

In this clever and all-too-true piece of satire, Thomas Frank and David Mulcahey present the business strategy of the fictional company Consolidated Deviance, Inc., the “nation’s leader … in the fabrication, consultancy, licensing and merchandising of deviant subcultural practice.”

Cook, Ian et al. 2004. “Follow the Thing: Papaya.” Antipode 36(4): 642–664.

Book Theme: 

An excellent, accessible case study into how commodities can be de-fetishized. The authors trace a papaya from its origins on a Jamaican plantation to the fridge of a North London flat. Highly recommended.

Watts, Duncan J. 2004. Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age. New York: W. W. Norton.

An explanation of network theory, a cutting-edge science of social order, by one of its most prominent proponents.

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