In a column from “The Editors’ Desk” at The Society Pages, Doug Hartmann offers a fascinating initial reading list for a new graduate course he’s proposed: “Great Books in Sociology.” He asked for comments, reactions, and suggestions. His post is below. I replied with a supplemental list of somewhat neglected classics.

Great Books in Sociology

by Doug Hartmann, 18 hours ago at 08:43 am

“Great Books in Sociology” is a new course I’ve proposed for our graduate curriculum here at Minnesota. I’m not sure I’ll get to teach it or not, but I’m having lots of fun thinking of the books I might include. Here’s my initial list.

1. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Max Weber)

2. Black Reconstruction (W.E.B. DuBois)

3. Stigma (Erving Goffman)

4. The Managed Heart (Arlie Hochschild)

5. The Culture of Public Problems (Joe Gusfield)

6. Weight of the World (Pierre Bourdieu)

7. Sidewalk (Mitch Duneier)

8. Ghostly Matters (Avery Gordon)

9. Religion in Human Evolution (Robert Bellah)

Reactions? Thoughts? Anything obvious I’ve missed?  The main criteria or principles I’ve been using so far are: it has to be a real book not a collection; the author has to be a sociologist; and it has to be a work that is actually worth reading, not just something that you should read or that represents some larger point or principle.

Also, if it is not obvious: I’m trying to think of the list as a whole set as well. My larger idea and goal is that this kind of list/course should help us not only think more about book-length writing and research projects, but also about what sociology itself is as an intellectual tradition and scholarly pursuit. Anyway, comments and suggestions–for books, authors, or topics–appreciated. This should be fun.

Monte Bute 2:58 am on January 1, 2014 | # | Reply

Here are a few thoughts on your list. My recommendations below are NOT my top 20, just some neglected sociological classics that deserve consideration for your course (and for the edification of young sociologists).

Kudos on your selection of “Black Reconstruction in America.” Far and away Du Bois’ best and most influential academic work (note I said “academic”).

I concur that Goffman should be included. While “Stigma” is a very good,” “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” will still be read in a 100 years.

I agree that Bourdieu should also be included. However, “Weight of the World” is a questionable choice. It has 22 co-authors and seems more like Studs Turkel than an example of Bourdieu’s best work like “Outline of a Theory of Practice” or “Distinction.”

Simmel is the most obvious oversight. Unfortunately, the suggestion of “The Web of Group-Affiliation” overlooks that it is just a chapter in “Soziologie,” as is “Conflict.” The respective translations by Bendix and Wolff are conveniently available in a single volume. “The Philosophy of Money” may end up his most canonical work.

For Joe Gusfield, I would substitute “Symbolic Crusade: Status Politics and the American Temperance Movement” for “The Culture of Public Problems.”

Here are 20 volumes for your consideration. I make no mention of books already cited in this thread of replies:

  • “Democracy in America” Vol. 2 (Tocqueville)
  • “Twenty Years at Hull-House” or “Democracy and Social Ethics” (Jane Addams)
  • “The Civilizing Process” (Norbert Elias)
  • “The Reproduction of Mothering” (Nancy Chodorow)
  • “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” (Karl Marx)
  • “Middletown” (Robert Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd)
  • “Ideology and Utopia” (Karl Mannheim)
  • “Human Nature and the Social Order” (Charles Cooley)
  • “Society in America” abridged ed. (Harriet Martineau)
  • “The Lonely Crowd” “(David Riesman)
  • “The Culture Industry” (Theodor Adorno)
  • “A Voice from the South” (Anna Julia Cooper)
  • “The Opium of the Intellectuals” (Raymond Aron)
  • “The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere” (Jurgen Habermas)
  • “The Power Elite” (C.W. Mills)
  • “Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society” (Ralf Dahrendorf)
  • “Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood” (Kristin Luker)
  • “Political Parties” (Robert Michels)
  • “The Hidden Injuries of Class” or “Corrosion of Character” (Richard Sennett)
  • “Paths in Utopia” (Martin Buber)