Authored by: Ben Gidley

The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Jewish Cultures

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  July  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415473781
eBook ISBN: 9780203497470
Adobe ISBN: 9781135048556


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Sociology explores social life: the relations and divisions between people, the relationship between individual agency and larger social structures. C. Wright Mills, a mid-twentieth-century American sociologist, has defined sociology’s aim as translating between “private troubles” and “public issues.” For example, one person losing a job or one child bullied for being Jewish would be “private troubles.” These would relate to the “public issues” of unemployment or antisemitism – but not always in a straightforward way. Sociology’s task, therefore, is to understand how these two levels are related. In this sense, sociology contrasts to other social sciences: to economics, on the one hand, which more often examines a public issue like unemployment without reference to the diverse personal experiences of joblessness which lie beneath it, or to psychology, on the other hand, which explores personal experiences but not in relation to the larger social structures bearing down on them.

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