In this concise and engaging work, Patricia Cormack investigates the broad cultural significance and relevance of academic sociology by examining its on-going relationship with modernity and mass culture. She bids us, rather than deny sociology's participation in culture, to see the discipline as informing ethical, epistemological and pedagogical questions. Through an examination of the writings of Emile Durkheim, C. Wright Mills and Jean Baudrillard, Cormack illustrates how their formulations of sociology as a cultural practice is rooted in the very mass culture that it studies. Central to the argument is a discussion of conceptual and rhetorical devices - "totems" and "tropes" - within social theory. In agreement with the three theorist subjects, Cormack posits that the social is a discursive artifact, becoming over time a "social fact", explaining and sustaining ordinary life. Durkheim treats the 19th century birth of sociology (in which he played a large part), as an intrinsic aspect of modern cultural consciousness. Mills advances this view further, treating the "Sociological Imagination" as part of and informing, mass culture.
Baudrillard treats sociological reason as now equivalent to and inextricable from commonsense understandings of the culture it seeks to understand - rendering the sociological project essentially mute. Of value to social scientists, and theorists in particular, this is a specialized volume - a sociology of sociology - written at senior undergraduate or graduate level. It is intended as textually oriented ethnography, and thus presents a theoretical rather than empirical investigation of the relationship between sociology and culture.