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Employing a relaxed, readable writing style, David Locher illustrates all the major sociological perspectives and theories of collective behavior and classical social movements. The book provides a comprehensive and balanced examination of the field and provides recent examples that encourage readers to evaluate different perspectives and think for themselves. Addresses the study of collective behavior, theory, categories of collective behavior, an analysis of modern episodes of collective behavior and social movements. For those curious about collective behavior.
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This book is for all those who are curious about collective behavior. It explores the major sociological ideas that have been applied to the understanding of unusual group behavior, and the many and varied forms that such behavior can take. The study of collective behavior is the attempt to understand why things do not always happen according to the norms of society, and why people sometimes do terrible or silly things without being able to adequately explain their motives to outsiders.
I have been teaching collective behavior to undergraduate students for several years. Each time I taught the course in the past, I tried a different combination of books, articles, and various other materials. My students were often less than thrilled with juggling so many different sources of information and I found the multitude of materials difficult to manage. I could not find one text that was sufficiently comprehensive and also filled with up-to-date examples. This book is intended to fill that void. My goal was to create one textbook that provides students and instructors with all of the basic materials needed for a semester of learning about collective behavior.
I wrote this book with the undergraduate student in mind. All too often my students find their textbooks difficult to understand even when they find the subject interesting. They become confused or frustrated and, as a result, they don't do the reading at all or they read the words without fully understanding the information. I have endeavored to create a textbook that reduces this obstacle to learning. I firmly believe there is no such thing as a textbook that is too easy to read. Although some theoretical discussions are necessarily dense, a novice can read this book without undue confusion. Whenever possible, difficult concepts are explained using clear, concise terms. I also tried to avoid unnecessarily complex sentence structure. No one learns if they can't understand what they are reading.
There are certain qualities that I look for in a textbook. It must examine all of the major theories of collective behavior and classic social movement theories. A strong textbook must define the various categories of collective behavior and provide interesting examples of each one. It needs examples of events that have occurred within the students' lifetime—things that they actually remember. Equally important, though, it must also discuss the classic examples which sociologists are familiar and comfortable with. Finally, it ought to clearly demonstrate how each of the most useful theories can be used to understand exactly what happens during those episodes, and why. This allows the students to fully understand the theories and their application to events in the real world. This book is designed to fulfill all of those criteria.
While the student was foremost in my mind, I also took the instructor's needs into account while creating this text. The entire book is structured in much the same way my course is structured: discussion of the major theories, followed by definition and examples of specific categories of collective behavior, finally ending with application of the theories to specific, recent examples. I suspect that many other instructors follow a similar pattern in their teaching. Classes always go smoother when the structure of the textbook matches the pedagogical style of the instructor. My goal was to give instructors a book that provides most of what the students will need for the entire semester. The examples are recent, eliminating the need for numerous photocopied handouts. The theory chapters are in-depth, eliminating the need to place classic books on reserve at the library. The analyses are detailed enough to help students understand how to do their own research into collective events and episodes.
I also structured the book in such a way as to allow the instructor to pick and choose which theories and events to focus on. Most instructors will likely find this flexibility and versatility useful. Chapters and sections are self-contained and specific. Vital information that crosses over boundaries is briefly summarized in multiple chapters. This periodic, intentional redundancy allows instructors to require only those chapters that fit their course outline without leaving out any important material that students need to get from their reading. Each chapter contains enough information to allow a reader to understand it without having read all prior chapters. In the end, this repetition not only allows flexibility but will also help novice readers remember the most important concepts and ideas.
Chapter 1 provides the reader with a general sense of what collective behavior is, as well as a brief outline of the theoretical perspectives that have been developed over the last century. Chapters 2 through 6 examine each of those theories in great depth. Chapter 7 gives descriptions and examples of many different forms of collective behavior. Chapters 8 to 12 each examine a recent episode of collective behavior. They include riots, fads, rumors, and hysterias. Each of these chapters also includes a section applying one or more of the theories to the specific event. Chapter 12 briefly applies all of the theories to one specific event, discussing the similarities and differences between the various perspectives. This shows the reader how the theories are used as well as illuminating some of the advantages and shortcomings of each.
Part II of this book focuses on social movements. Chapter 13 discusses why social movements have been traditionally considered a form of collective behavior, and why many social movement researchers do not accept the collective behavior approach. Chapter 14 discusses four of the classic social movement theories. Chapter 15 looks at specific examples of successful and unsuccessful social movements. Chapter 16 examines the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice movements in the United States. It includes analyses of both movements using all four of the classical theories.
I hope that you find this book as -fascinating to read as I found it to write. I could not have completed the book without the help of my wife Melissa, who read at least two drafts of each chapter with minimum complaint. I'd also like to thank everyone at Prentice Hall, including Nancy Roberts, Allison Westlake, Christopher DeJohn, Christina Scalia, and Shawna Kelly. I would particularly like to thank all of the people like Shawna who, when I complained that I could not find a textbook that I liked, said "Why don't you write one?" Thanks, too, to all of the students I have taught over the years, particularly Dan. Finally, thanks to every teacher I ever had. I've learned something from every one of you.
Earlier drafts of these chapters were reviewed by Hank Johnston Ph.D., San Diego State University; Thomas J. Sullivan, Northern Michigan University; Randy Stoecker, University of Toledo; Eric L. Hirsch, Providence College; Chad E. Litton, Southeastern Oklahoma State University; Ralph R. Smith, Southwestern Missouri State University; Oleg I. Gubin, University of Utah; and Michael J. Webber, University of San Francisco. Their comments and suggestions helped make this a better textbook.
David A. Locher
Missouri Southern State College
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