The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Book Review of Sociological Insight by Randall Collins Will Go Live Sunday, August 7th

If you want to read it before the review, you have till then do so. I’m putting below here the preamble from the review itself, since it makes the case why this book is worth reading.

Randall Collins has probably influenced me more than any other writer. A sociologist who concentrated on theory, with an encyclopedic knowledge of world history, in particular intellectual history, I regard him as a candidate for greatest intellectual of the 20th century whom no one outside his field knows.

Sociological Insight is a short book, subtitled “An Introduction to Non-Obvious Sociology.”

The dig against sociology is that it mostly discovers stuff that any idiot already knew; it is reified common sense. (A friend and I used to joke that if we ever started a consultancy we’d call it RCS, and not tell anyone what it meant.)

Collins wrote this small book to explain to students considering sociology, and to non-sociologists, why sociology was worth studying. The book is clearly written, divided into short chapters, and clocks in at under 200 pages.  Used copies are cheap, or you can probably still find it at your local university or college library.

If you read only one book of the books I’m going to review this year, I suggest it be this one, or “An Introduction to Weberian Sociology”, also by Collins.

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  1. The best work is the work were you got things from.

  2. nihil obstet

    August 7?

  3. Ian Welsh

    Woops, thanks for the catch.

  4. John


    If anyone ever succeeds in writing the SOCIO program Randall writes about it will be used to manipulate people to their disadvantage.

  5. XFR

    Re RCS–

    I get irritated when news reports trumpet psychology studies that simply confirm common sense, e.g. the study that confirmed that sharing food increases feelings of trust.

    Studies like that one obviously need to be conducted, but they’re only news when they produce an unexpected result–otherwise it’s just “dog bites man”.

  6. Sometimes experts needs to realize the “dog bite man” is the case. Sometimes the ordinary person does too.

  7. Tom W Harris

    And sometimes the experts are paid to say the opposite. That’s especially so in economics.

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