Synopses & Reviews
, one of French writer Georges Perecand#8217;s most famous pieces, consists of 480 numbered paragraphsand#8212;each just a few short lines recalling a memory from his childhood. The work has neither a beginning nor an end. Nor does it contain any analysis. But it nonetheless reveals profound truths about French society during the 1940s and 50s.
Taking Perecand#8217;s book as its cue, Telling About Society explores the unconventional ways we communicate what we know about society to others. The third in distinguished teacher Howard Beckerand#8217;s best-selling series of writing guides for social scientists, the book explores the many ways knowledge about society can be shared and interpreted through different forms of tellingand#8212;fiction, films, photographs, maps, even mathematical modelsand#8212;many of which remain outside the boundaries of conventional social science. Eight case studies, including the photographs of Walker Evans, the plays of George Bernard Shaw, the novels of Jane Austen and Italo Calvino, and the sociology of Erving Goffman, provide convincing support for Beckerand#8217;s argument: that every way of telling about society is perfectand#8212;for some purpose. The trick is, as Becker notes, to discover what purpose is served by doing it this way rather than that.
With Beckerand#8217;s trademark humor and eminently practical advice, Telling About Society is an ideal guide for social scientists in all fields, for artists interested in saying something about society, and for anyone interested in communicating knowledge in unconventional ways.
"Little can be said about the crystal clear language Becker uses and the corresponding clarity of his arguments. . . . It is encouraging--without intending to sound corny--because Becker makes you want to become a better sociologist, which might be the prime intention behind reading such a book in the first place. By the same token, it is safe to say that this book is especially recommendable for graduate students or anybody who is still open to apply other forms of representing social reality."
"Becker's study of methodology is a fantastic resource, assembling new and previously published material of interest to those facing the challenge of doing and reporting on social research. . . . Telling about Society showcases the breadth and depth of his scolarship, drawing together thought from several decades of research, teaching, and creative production."
"Telling About Society presents a deeply worthwhile and generous series of observations collected over more than 20 years. This book would surely spur important discussions in Introduction to Sociology, methods, and advanced graduate courses alike. Telling About Societymaps and gently questions the boundaries of the sociological discipline. Becker should be applauded for bravely attacking (but with subtlety and respect) the standards and conventions of the field."
About the Author
Howard S. Becker
and#160;has made major contributions to the sociology of deviance, sociology of art, and sociology of music. He has also written extensively on the practice of sociology. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, where he was also an instructor in sociology and social sciences. He became profesor of sociology at Northwestern University, where he taught for twenty-five years. When he retired from active teaching he was a professor of sociology and an adjunct professor of music at the University of Washington.and#160;He currently lives and works in San Francisco and Paris.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
AcknowledgmentsPart I. Ideas
Chapter 1. Telling About Society
Chapter 2. Representations of Society as Organizational Products
Chapter 3. Who Does What?
Chapter 4. The Work Users Do
Chapter 5. Standardization and Innovation
Chapter 6. Summarizing Details
Chapter 7. Reality Aesthetics
Chapter 8. The Morality of RepresentationsPart II. Examples
Chapter 9. Parables, Ideal Types, and Mathematical Models
Chapter 10. Charts: Thinking with Drawings
Chapter 11. Visual Sociology, Documentary Photography, and Photojournalism
Chapter 12. Drama and Multivocality: Shaw, Churchill, and Shawn
Chapter 13. Goffman, Language, and the Comparative Strategy
Chapter 14. Jane Austen: The Novel as Social Analysis
Chapter 15. Georges Perec's Experiments in Social Description
Chapter 16. Italo Calvino, UrbanologistFinally . . .