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Crisis in sociology : the need for Darwin
Lopreato, Joseph.
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Publication Information:
New Brunswick, N.J. : Transaction Publishers, [1999]

Physical Description:
xiv, 329 pages ; 24 cm
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HM24 .L82 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Crisis in Sociology presents a compelling portrait of sociology's current troubles and proposes a controversial remedy. In the authors' view, sociology's crisis has deep roots, traceable to the over-ambitious sweep of the discipline's founders. Generations of sociologists have failed to focus effectively on the tasks necessary to build a social science. The authors see sociology's most disabling flaw in the failure to discover even a single general law or principle. This makes it impossible to systematically organize empirical observations, guide inquiry by suggesting falsifiable hypotheses, or form the core of a genuinely cumulative body of knowledge.

Absent such a theoretical tool, sociology can aspire to little more than an amorphous mass of hunches and disconnected facts. The condition engenders confusion and unproductive debate. It invites fragmentation and predation by applied social disciplines, such as business administration, criminal justice, social work, and urban studies. Even more dangerous are incursions by prestigious social sciences and by branches of evolutionary biology that constitute the frontier of the current revolution in behavioral science. Lopreato and Crippen argue that unless sociology takes into account central developments in evolutionary science, it will not survive as an academic discipline.

Crisis in Sociology argues that participation in the "new social science," exemplified by thriving new fields such as evolutionary psychology, will help to build a vigorous, scientific sociology. The authors analyze research on such subjects as sex roles, social stratification, and ethnic conflict, showing how otherwise disconnected features of the sociological landscape can in fact contribute to a theoretically coherent and cumulative body of knowledge.

Author Notes

Joseph Lopreato is professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin.
Timothy Crippen is professor of sociology at Mary Washington College.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Lopreato and Crippen present a strong, cogent, and convincing argument for making evolutionary biology a cornerstone of sociological inquiry. They note correctly that contemporary sociological thought is extremely fragmented and that few if any sociological laws or principles of any consequence exist. To rectify this situation, the authors urge their colleagues to follow the lead of psychology and anthropology and embrace the "modern synthesis" of the Darwinian revolution. Their prescription is to adopt a perspective that sees evolution as "the resultant of the interaction of genotype (the genetic endowments of organisms) and environmental pressures, which most assuredly include culture...." The authors go beyond mere criticism and devote most of their chapters to demonstrating the influence of our evolutionary past on human behavior throughout history. Among the many interesting and provocative topics covered are the evolutionary bases of sex differences, the tenuous bonds and continuing battles between the sexes, and the influence of human evolution on systems of dominance (social stratification) and ethnic conflict. The book is clearly and expressively written, and technical jargon is minimized and well defined. Should be in every college and university library. W. P. Nye; Hollins University

Table of Contents

Tables and Figurep. x
Prefacep. xi
Part 1 From Early Promise to Deepening Crisis
1. The Early Promisep. 3
2. The Deepening Crisisp. 21
3. Why the Crisis: A Sketchp. 49
Part 2 Elements of Evolutionary Theory
4. Darwin's Theory of Natural Selectionp. 83
5. Elements of Evolutionary Behavioral Sciencep. 101
Part 3 Select Adaptations and Applications
6. Fundamentals of Sex Differencesp. 135
7. An Uneasy Alliancep. 169
8. Fundamentals of Social Stratificationp. 207
9. The Clannish Brainp. 247
Referencesp. 279
Index of Namesp. 311
Index of Subjectsp. 319