When Polity published Tony Giddens’ first edition of Sociology in 1989, no one envisaged another seven editions stretching well into the twenty-first century. The purpose of that original book was to outline and promote a general sociological approach to the study of social life (a ‘sociological imagination’) alongside a review of the best sociological studies across many specialist fields. And though our eighth edition is fully revised, up to date with contemporary developments and is, in many ways, much changed, its central purpose remains the same. The good news is that the need for an eighth edition means that the discipline of sociology continues to thrive.
The book’s central themes have certainly changed over time. This edition has much to say about processes of globalization, the digital revolution in communications, global terrorism and responses to it, the fluidity of gender identity and environmental issues such as climate change; none of which took up much, if any, space in 1989. Yet the theme of social inequality – a staple of sociology since its birth in the late nineteenth century – has, perhaps surprisingly, returned to centre stage with the emergence of movements such as ‘Black Lives Matter’ and an increasingly widespread public understanding of the extremes of wealth that exist between the very rich and the rest of society (the 1% / 99% protests). The book constantly strives to accurately reflect the central social, political, economic and cultural issues of the day, though always through the sociological research and theorizing which tries to explain why and how these issues have gained prominence at this particular time.
Over time the text has become increasingly interactive, continuously asking questions of readers, encouraging them to reflect on key problems and to read original journal articles, to think clearly about research strategies and methods and to seek out the many sociological themes embedded within cultural artefacts such as novels, film, music and much more. This interactive element means the book is more than ever attuned to the needs of students, lecturers and course leaders alike.
The authors continue to share a commitment to a general sociological perspective which brings together micro and macro studies, connects our individual, personal lives with the broader observable patterns in the social world and is strongly comparative and historical. In our view, this approach is still the basis for sociology as a distinct and indispensable guide for all of those seeking to understand the constantly changing human world which they themselves help to create.
Anthony Giddens is the former director of the London School of Economics and Political Science, and is now a member of the House of Lords. His many books include Turbulent and Mighty Continent, The Third Way and The Consequences of Modernity.
Philip W. Sutton is an independent researcher, formerly of the University of Leeds and Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen.
The 8th edition ofSociologyis now available from Polity.