Sociology is a book which although
dated in terms of some of his historical
references, is truly a classic in sociology.
It draws the reader into a world of reality
which...at least for me...can't help but
enthuse and excite. I have assigned and
taught from this book in almost every Intro.
Sociology class I've ever had. I've likewise
included many of its ideas in many other
courses. Student after student has told me
verbally or in written assignments how much
they enjoyed and learned from Berger's book.
Below, there is a link to an online
bookseller who includes some comments by
other readers of Invitation to
Sociology. If you haven't read
this book ever or very recently...whether you
are a sociological beginner or a veteran of
sociology, I urge you to do so...or to do so
Before presenting some specific
information from Invitation to
Sociology, I'd like to make a couple
observations about it. First, Berger's writing is a
combination of "extreme clarity," endless
caveats and roundabout paths, and jargonish
prose (ironically, the very kind he critiques
in the book). In addition, his use of
foreign terms and phrases without translation
has always been a bit much for me. As I've
told every class assigned to read it...he
sometimes takes the "long way around" to get
to his point, but he will always get there.
One must be patient sometimes...Berger always
gets to Los Angeles from Miami (even if he
goes by Sioux Falls!!). Often its when you
may seem the most lost that his clarity jumps
out at you. He can sometimes (often!) say
the most complicated things in the most clear
language...very much noticeable and worth the
effort to get to...I might add.
Second, Berger has written numerous other
books which are respected and well-known.
One in particular is The Social Construction of
Reality (written with Thomas
Luckman). It's a fine book and just as much
a classic in the "sociology of knowledge" as
"Invitation" is in its own right. His other
book of note is The
Sacred Canopy, a book in the
"sociology of religion." Likewise, its a
fine book. I've also included a link below
which gives a little biographical info on
Berger...including a bibliography of his
works. It is noteworthy that this recent
listing contains no reference to
"Invitation"...but its still worth
Amongst the very
numerous insights and passages it contains,
there is one section/chapter that I find
immensely useful in helping teach others
about the sociological perspective. Chapter
2 (Sociology as a Form of Consciousness)
contains Berger's ideas about HOW to think
sociologically...especially critically. He
does this by articulating four (4) motifs (themes) of
"sociological consciousness." As I've
said countless times in classes, it is one
thing to ask students to think critically in
a sociological vein...its quite another to
give them the "tools" to do so. This is what
I believe Berger does for us in Chapter 2.
So, what follows is a short outline of each
of these "motifs"...each beginning with a
quote from the book which introduces it.
These outlines are by no means comprehensive,
but they do manage, I believe, to set the
content and tone of each of them. Obviously
(careful now!!), a fuller reading of this
chapter will help gain a better understanding
of them...especially with the "Little Dictionary" the ASA offers (see below) at hand.
"We would contend,
then, that there is a debunking motif
inherent in sociological consciousness. The
sociologist will be driven time and again, by
the very logic of his discipline, to debunk
the social systems he is studying." (p.
...a "looking beyond"
...a "seeing through"
...the "art of mistrust"...of appearance/the surface/form
...It's PREMISE: Nothing is as it seems to be ("The 1st Wisdom of Sociology")
...an "unmasking tendency"
...there are levels and meanings of
reality not given in "form," "appearance,"
"behavior," "beliefs," "interpretation," or
2. UNRESPECTABILITY MOTIF
"In looking at this
American development we can detect another
motif of sociology, closely related to that
of debunking but not identical with it--its
fascination with the unrespectable view of
society." (p. 43)
...awareness of worlds/realities other than those of middle & upper class respectable "standards" and "propiety"
...based on division of culture into
"respectable" (normal) and "unrespectable"
(deviant) sectors by ruling elite
----------Ignoring OR devaluing anything
----------which deviates from the standards
...LANGUAGE: is often the clearest sign
of the sectors
----------Supression of certain language in
----------Not mentioning undesirable things
...a "puncturing" of the facades of
----------Seeing the totality/wholeness of
----------A clearer view of society than with
----------"googles" of respectability
----------Exposing ANY taken-for-granted
----------belief or position
3. RELATIVIZATION MOTIF
"...we would look once
more on this phenomenon of relativization
that we have already touched upon a few
times. We would now say explicitly that
sociology is so much in tune with the temper
of the modern era precisely because it
represents the consciousness of a world in
which values have been so radically
relativized." (p. 48)
...realization that an individual's or a group's views/values/ways are NOT absolutes...are NOT "truth/normality" itself
...gaining perspective (distance) on own
----------By examining the process of their
----------By gaining insight into the ways of
...ideas change when their situations or conditions change
...realize that societies provide MEANING
SYSTEMS which provide a "total interpretation
of reality" to believe in
----------Our own lives are RELATIVE TO that
4. COSMOPOLITAN MOTIF
"To these we would,
finally, add a fourth one, much less
far-reaching in its implications but useful
in rounding out our picture--the cosmopolitan
motif." (p. 52)
...the broadest, most general of the motifs...the FOUNDATION of the other motifs
...an openness to other ways of thinking and acting...without prejudice...WITH empathy
...transcending one's own physical
location and one's attachment to it
----------Recognize the "accident of birth"
----------and "narrowness of nationalism"
...to feel at home wherever their are others who think
...a broad, open and emancipated view on human life
...to realize that..."nothing human is
alien to me"