American Society: How It Really Works

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9780393930672: American Society: How It Really Works

“The definitive critical introduction to American society, challenging readers to think about the disconnection between how things are supposed to be in theory versus how they really work in practice.” ―Jeff Manza, New York University

In American Society: How It Really Works, Erik Olin Wright and Joel Rogers ask several crucial questions: What kind of society is American society? How does it really work? Why is it the way it is? In what ways does it need changing, and how can those changes be brought about?

They explore the implications of these questions by examining five key values that most Americans believe our society should realize: Freedom, Prosperity, Efficiency, Fairness, and Democracy. Wright and Rogers ask readers to evaluate to what degree contemporary American society realizes these values and suggest how Americans might solve some of the social problems that confront America today.

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About the Author:

Erik Olin Wright is arguably the most prominent scholar analyzing the social impact of class in the United States, and his research has mainly involved large-scale quantitative investigations of various themes connected to social inequality. Wright is the author of many books, including Class Counts, Interrogating Inequality, and Classes. He has also organized what he calls the “Real Utopias Project,” which explores a wide range of radical proposals for transforming the core institutions of contemporary society (and is also a series of books for Verso). In addition, he founded the A.E. Havens Center at the University of Wisconsin, whose mission is to foster dialogue between activists and academics and to encourage critical perspectives on contemporary social issues.

Joel Rogers, a MacArthur Foundation "genius" prize-winner and identified by Newsweek as one of the 100 living Americans most likely to shape U.S. politics and culture in the twenty-first century, is professor of law, political science, public affairs, and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The common thread in his academic work is democracy: how to define and measure it, what makes it work, how to make it work better. Rogers spends a lot of time outside the university advising people in politics, government, business, and social movements. He runs the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, which promotes “high road” (i.e., equitable, sustainable, democratic) economic development and governance, and has produced a stream of influential innovations in worker training; business and labor strategy; and local, state, and national policy.

Review:

"American Society: How It Really Works is sociology at its best, theoretically grounded, empirically based, and tightly argued. Wright and Rogers provide a unique introduction to the sociological perspective by focusing on four core American social values-efficiency, freedom, fairness, and democracy-and show the ways that American society does not measure up to its potential, give sociological reasons why this is the case, and use the sociological imagination to suggest possible futures for a more just and equitable society. The perfect book not only to introduce students to sociological analysis, but to engage them in the major issues of our time." -- Rhonda F. Levine, Colgate University "There can be no better introduction to American society than one written by these two brilliant commentators." -- Michael Burawoy, University of California, Berkeley "I used Wright and Rogers's American Society for an introductory sociology course. The text provided an accessible entrance into the fundamentals of sociological analysis, from economic principles and social inequality to mass consumption to participatory democracy. The work is clearly theoretically informed, but the most impressive contribution lies in the wealth of empirical studies, statistics, tables, and figures provided throughout the text. My students were particularly drawn to the empirical evidence and the consistent reference to contemporary debates about social issues, such as health care and campaign financing. The authors' suggestions for ways to reduce social inequality ignited class discussions about the limits and potential of social change at the personal and structural level. I would recommend this text for any introductory sociology course focused on alternative understandings of social inequality in American society." -- Robyn Autry, Wesleyan University "Imagine a book about American social dynamics written by a pair of public intellectuals who are also eminent academics, aimed at beginners. Imagine a book that gives equal weight to facts and ideas, treating each with lucidity and grace. This is that book." -- David Smith, University of Kansas

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