The chapters in this volume represent some of Dennis Wrong's best and most enduring essays. Initially published as Skeptical Sociology, this collection displays his ability to write compellingly for general intellectual audiences as well as for academic sociologists. The book is divided into sections that represent Wrong's major areas of interest and investigation: "Human Nature and the Perspective of Sociology," "Social Stratification and Inequality," and "Power and Politics." Each section is preceded by a short introduction that places the articles in context and elaborates and often sheds new light on the contents.
The essays in the first section were written with polemical intent, directed against the assumptions of academic sociology that prevailed in an earlier period. Part two calls attention to the neglect by functionalists of power, group conflict, and historical change; Wrong shows that failure to consider them made functional theories of stratification especially vulnerable. The third section is more heterogeneous in subject and theme than the others; all the essays in it touch in some way on power or politics.
Included in this volume is Wrong's celebrated and much-quoted article "The Oversocialized Conception of Man in Modern Sociology." Other significant essays reveal the author's views on many timely topics of sociological concern, such as the quests for "community" and for "identity"; the Freudian, Marxian, and Weberian heritages in sociology; social class in America; meritocracy; a theory of democratic politics; humanist, positivist, and functionalist perspectives; and the sociology of the future. The Oversocialized Conception of Man is an indispensable volume for sociologists, political theorists, and historians.
Dennis H. Wrong is emeritus professor of sociology at New York University. He is the author of The Problem of Order, Population and Society, Class Fertility Trends in Western Nations, Power: Its Forms, Bases, and Uses (also published by Transaction), and The Modern Condition (forthcoming).