Introduction to Politics and Society


Shaun Best

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    During the year 2000 I was involved in an interesting debate about the nature and purpose of sociology textbooks.* My argument was that textbooks in sociology look and feel the same; they have a similar content and layout, share similar prejudices and appear to be written largely by drawing upon earlier versions of textbooks. Sociology textbooks are written to a strict formula and have a fairly rigid conception of which authors and theories should be included, and, more importantly, which should not be included. Not surprisingly, a number of people asked me what I thought the contents of a textbook should be like. My answer was that there should be diverse texts for diverse folks.

    This book represents my vision of what a textbook should be like. I have used the traditional textbook format to look at a number of theorists and theoretical issues that are not normally addressed in an introductory text. My one deviation from the traditional textbook format is that I have moved away from the customary chapter division and adopted a similar arrangement to that of Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateau (London: Athlone Press, 1988). This approach involves having areas (plateaus) that readers can follow in any order that they wish.

    The book was written during my time as Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy at Burnley College. I would like to thank the staff and students for the many interesting times we had together. Many of the ideas in this book were also shared with friends and colleagues in the Association for the Teachers of Social Science.

    I hope you enjoy the text.


    * Best, Shaun, ‘The demise of the sociology teacher’, Social Science Tbacher, 29(1), Autumn 1999, 22–26. ‘Replies’ in 29(2), Spnng 2000, 1–23.

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