Introduction to sociology

Introduction à la sociologie, Michel de Coster, Bernadette Bawin-Legros, Marc Poncelet, De Boeck, 6th edition, 2006 (2008), 267 pages

The book Introduction to the sociology of Michel de Coster, Bernadette Bawin-Legros, and Marc Poncelet intended for undergraduate students in the social sciences or to students of other disciplines and the public at large curious of the humanities and social sciences presents itself as a book of introduction to sociology. This is to say that he does not want to be neither a dictionary nor a history of the great currents of thought, nor a manual, but an introduction to a discipline. To discover a discipline, to specify in relation to other human sciences, to give them the desire to deepen their sociological knowledge, such must be the objectives of this introduction, which is now in its sixth edition. Closing the book, the student or equivalent, should be able to answer a question that is simple only in appearance, what is sociology ?

The book is divided into two parts. The first, the most convincing of the two, attempts to define the perspective of sociology. It is important to explain what is sociology by specifying its object from the genesis of the discipline. The return to the sources helps to establish the foundations of the discipline and to specify the ambitions. Returning to the debates the founders of the discipline, the authors determine the specificity of social phenomena, and raised questions about the scientific status of sociology. The originality of sociology is well-presented and problematized : the authors have taken the advantage of the differentiate point-to-point psychology, social psychology, anthropology, history, economics, geography. The demonstration as a whole impresses. Indeed, it is important for us to find this argument in a book exploring the sociology. The book does not escape the presentation, always schematic, but nevertheless necessary, of the different paradigms to organizing the discipline of sociology.

The second part is tightened around the three concepts through which the entire discipline is presented : communication, power and role. These three concepts are presented at three different levels : the interpersonal or micro-sociological level of social groups, level of society as a whole. Even if the authors state that “it is not necessary to attach a meaning too absolute to the cutting proposed in this second part” (p 9) due to the interpenetration of the different plans, remains to be seen whether the student will be aware of this precaution of reading. The three concepts chosen to go into the sociological may leave doubtful. Communication is the lion’s share in the book, thirty pages are devoted to each, compared to only two in the family, a fortnight to the social classes. For those who want to have knowledge of the thematic sub-areas of the discipline, the approach is in this book a little difficult, knowing that the themes are only discussed at a single level of analysis. The family only serves as an example for the analysis of the distribution of roles, then she would have been able to be mobilised for an analysis of the power relationships within the family1 or the rigour as an example to the communication2.

Each chapter is accompanied by a short further reading. An index of authors, directs research in the book, a thematic index would have been welcome. In all the about quick and synthetic allows an approach that is faithful to the authors, brief but adapted to the format of the book and his ambitions in the educational system. The contract of read is completed, this book provides an introduction honest to sociology.

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