Sociation Today ® 
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ISSN 1542-6300
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 North Carolina
 Central University

Bob Davis,
 North Carolina
 Agricultural and
 Technical State

Richard Dixon,

Ken Land,
 Duke University

Miles Simpson,
 North Carolina
 Central University

Ron Wimberley,
 N.C. State University

Robert Wortham,
 North Carolina
 Central University

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John W.M. Russell,

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Volume 6, Number 2
Fall 2008

Meet The Authors 
The Social Context View of Sociology
Marty E. Zusman
Senior Author

    The Social Context View of Sociology by Marty E. Zusman, David Knox, and Tracie Gardner (2009) is an introductory sociology textbook published by Carolina University Press (ISBN 978-1-59460-572-7). 

    The purpose of writing The Social Context View of Sociology was to provide a unique perspective of the social world. More importantly, to avoid what we consider the sometimes confusing introduction of the discipline (by standard textbooks) into diverse frameworks, we presented a basic typology.  As a student of Professor Marvin Olsen, the book reflects his persistent argument that students fail to develop a cogent foundation because they lack even a simple agreed upon taxonomy to classify the core organizations that we profess to be the basis of sociology.  Professor Olsen observed,

All of the sciences-physical, biological, psychological, and social-frequently find it useful to classify phenomena into categories comprising a typology.... Sociology at present has nothing approaching a rigorous taxonomy-nor even a single unanimously accepted typology by which all social organizations might be classified for descriptive purposes...  (Olsen 1968).
    It is this lack of a typology that makes The Social Context View of Sociology unique.  With proper respect for the differences within the discipline of sociology, the various approaches mask the major contribution that sociology makes to our thoughtful role in explaining what is happening in the studentís world.  With the use of the typology of nine basic organizations as the major core, the book provides a foundation that students can carry with them throughout their lives to answer a central question-what is it that sociology adds to our understanding of the world that no other academic area provides?  For example, students often ask what sociology explains about drug use that no other science explains.  We can take all nine areas and focus scientifically on population explanations, crowd use, and differences by social class, groups, effects of family, community, associations like hospitals or the military, networking and societal affects to provide an answer. 

    In the Social Context View we emphasized the nine types of social organizations that allow all the varied professional approaches to build upon.  This allows students to quickly understand sociology.  It allows faculty to lecture directly from the book or using any approach build upon the full explanation of what sociology is all about.  Following Marvin Olsen, we settled on developing from the nine levels to all of the multifaceted content studied in this discipline.  We introduced the nine levels in chapter one, explained the basis sociologists use in predicting dependent outcomes and the differences between popular beliefs and scientific data.  In chapter two through chapter four we explained the basis of culture, socialization, order and deviance integrating popular wisdom with scientific data on crime, divorce and other outcomes.  In addition, we took each category or type of organization and applied it consistently throughout the text. 

    The remaining Chapters five through thirteen take the various types of organizations; populations, collectivities, social classes, groups, families, associations, communities, networks and societies and emphasize how they, rather than psychological or other approaches, explain human behavior.  In effect, the book allows students to use the social context approach to understand how sociologists would explain suicide, crowd behavior, inequality, voluntarism, marriage, education, rural life, or the change from capitalism to socialism.

    Regardless of the perspective utilized by sociology faculty in lecture, those who have used the book report that it facilitates a quick understanding by students of the sociological discipline, its core concepts and theories.   Since each chapter stands alone, the book permits faculty to teach content in any order and the student to use the nine organizations structured into each chapter to maintain a coherent understanding.

    Students uniformly find the approach understandable.  They "get it."   They also do not complain about the lack of pictures, inserts and the like that sometimes confuse some introductory students.  Nor do they complain about the relatively low cost (around $40) which results from presenting only core material. The goal was to provide a framework wherein new students would be excited by the discipline, organized in their thinking and ultimately to answer the question, "what did sociology provide as an explanation that would not be obtained by psychology or any other discipline?"  We hope the goal was accomplished.  Students and faculty who have used this book have provided us with positive feedback that the goal has been met.


Olsen, Marvin E. 1968 The Process of Social Organization.  New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston 

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©2008 by the North Carolina Sociological Association