Breaking away from the idea that sociology only ever elaborates the negative, Sociology for Optimists shows that sociology can provide hope in dealing with social issues through critical approaches that acknowledge the positive. From politics and inequality to nature and faith, Mary Holmes shows how a critical and optimistic sociology can help us think about and understand human experience not just in terms of social problems, but in terms of a human capacity to respond to those problems and strive for social change. With contemporary case studies throughout grounding the theory in the real world, this is the perfect companion/antidote to studying sociology.
There are days when I think that if coining a collective noun one might speak of us as a pessimism of sociologists. A tendency to imagine the worst is not unwarranted, especially in a time of austerity, worldwide conflict and massive challenges like climate change and widening inequalities.1 It might appear almost offensive to suggest that what we need is more optimism. However, in advocating the need for optimism I am certainly not arguing that individual positive thinking is the answer to what are thorny structural problems (see Ehrenreich 2009). Nor am I recommending positive psychology, the very name of which implies that the rest of the discipline focuses on the pathological. I am questioning whether optimists are thought terribly nice, but a ...