The Myth of Individualism: How Social Forces Shape Our Lives

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Overview

A second edition of this textbook is now available.

The Myth of Individualism offers a concise introduction to sociology and sociological thinking. This engaging supplemental text challenges the dominant belief that human behavior is the result of free choices made by autonomous actors. Drawing upon personal stories, historical events and sociological research, Callero shows how powerful social forces shape individual lives in subtle but compelling ways. Chapters examine the fundamental importance of cultural symbols, the pressures of group conformity, the influence of family, the impact of social class, the wide reach of global capitalism and the revolutionary potential of collective action. An organizing theme of the book is that humans are fundamentally social beings. Even parts of our life that we tend to think of as personal, such as identity, cognition, and emotion, are conditioned and structured by a web of intersecting social relationships. By acknowledging the limits of individual effort and control, we gain insight into our own lives and the lives of others. We also achieve a more informative outlook on enduring social problems and we begin the process of developing a sociological perspective.

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Editorial Reviews

Dean Braa
Peter Callero has written an engaging and entertaining introduction to sociological concepts and theories. It is accessible to undergraduate students including those in introductory sections. He has masterfully used everyday experiences of people to help explain often-difficult concepts such as structure and agency. I highly recommend this book, preferably as an excellent supplement to an introductory text.
Frank Fromherz
Professor Callero, with head and heart, knows of what he writes, for he combines powerful narrative, praxis, and vision. One would expect no less from a scholar of society who has dedicated his life to seeking both truth and social justice. Such is a dialectic we all need to practice. And in the spirit of seeking truth and a better world, readers of this fine book can engage in a constructive debate with the author: is individualism a myth (in the pejorative sense) or is it an imaginative personal growth opportunity to go deep into one's spiritual and existential solitude (like Thoreau, for instance) and discover a profound social-and ecological-solidarity? Callero engages us if we decide to think with our whole beings as we read, in the best Socratic and Gandhian satyagraha traditions.
Peter Collier
Peter Callero's The Myth of Individualism is the kind of introductory sociology text that is needed to reach the millennium generation of students flooding into our colleges and universities. Current freshmen do not accept something as 'true' just because someone in authority tells them to think that way; they want to understand 'why' things are the way that they are and believe that they can impact pressing social issues. Instead of the 'time-tested' approach of many intro Sociology textbooks—i.e. cataloging the social institutions and processes—Callero invites students to actively engage in sociological thinking by focusing on how our society's blind acceptance of logic of individualism masks individuals' understanding the relationship between our personal lives and the social forces that structure them. With examples taken from current events, The Myth of Individualism will inspire students to reject reductionist explanations for social outcomes (e.g. the rich are rich because they work harder than other people), and to utilize a sociological perspective in responding to the issues they encounter in everyday life in a complicated world.
Michael Schwalbe
In The Myth of Individualism, Callero does more than show why individualism is wrong. With the skill of a wise teacher, he leads readers into a progressively more complex understanding of the relationship between the individual and society. We emerge from the book with the ability to see more deeply into how we are simultaneously products of social life and its makers.
CHOICE
Individualism is a set of beliefs that economic success comes from one's own hard work, and that private life is more important than public life; it is an 'ideology based on self-determination,' where a person can freely choose what he or she wants to do. However, these beliefs are not sustained by reality. To become a person, one is dependent on others, viz., one's family and friends. As one becomes a person, one is confronted by different group memberships and the rules of conduct associated with those groups, which again limits one's independence. Confronting the social class system, some individuals learn that hard work and responsibility have little connection to the American Dream; they are buffeted by economic forces they little understand. Interspersed with references to people whose attempts at individualism resulted in punishment, e.g., Ted Kaczynski, or in social change, e.g., Rosa Parks, the book's argument, then, is that social forces limit the freedom of each of us. Most people won't need a book to tell them this; they will know it from their own experiences. Nevertheless, Callero (Western Oregon Univ.) offers a reminder. Summing Up: Recommended. General and undergraduate libraries.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742599901
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/16/2009
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Pages: 186
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter L. Callero is professor of sociology at Western Oregon University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Chapter 1 Individualism: The Power of a Myth
Chapter 2 Becoming a Person: The Power of Symbols
Chapter 3 Conformity and Disobedience: The Power of the Group
Chapter 4 Family Matters: The Power of Social Class
Chapter 5 Globalization: The Power of Capitalism
Chapter 6 From “Me” to “We”: The Power of Collective Action
Conclusion

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