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American Society

How It Really Works


Erik Olin Wright (Author, University of Wisconsin, Madison), Joel Rogers (Author, University of Wisconsin, Madison)


“The definitive critical introduction to American society, challenging readers to think about the disconnection between how things are supposed to be in theory versus how they really work in practice.” —Jeff Manza, New York University

In American Society: How It Really Works, Erik Olin Wright and Joel Rogers ask several crucial questions: What kind of society is American society? How does it really work? Why is it the way it is? In what ways does it need changing, and how can those changes be brought about?

They explore the implications of these questions by examining five key values that most Americans believe our society should realize: Freedom, Prosperity, Efficiency, Fairness, and Democracy. Wright and Rogers ask readers to evaluate to what degree contemporary American society realizes these values and suggest how Americans might solve some of the social problems that confront America today.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • July 2010
  • ISBN 978-0-393-93067-2
  • 6.2 × 9.2 in / 512 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

American Society: How It Really Works is sociology at its best, theoretically grounded, empirically based, and tightly argued. Wright and Rogers provide a unique introduction to the sociological perspective by focusing on four core American social values—efficiency, freedom, fairness, and democracy—and show the ways that American society does not measure up to its potential, give sociological reasons why this is the case, and use the sociological imagination to suggest possible futures for a more just and equitable society. The perfect book not only to introduce students to sociological analysis, but to engage them in the major issues of our time.” — Rhonda F. Levine, Colgate University

“There can be no better introduction to American society than one written by these two brilliant commentators.” — Michael Burawoy, University of California, Berkeley

“I used Wright and Rogers’s American Society for an introductory sociology course. The text provided an accessible entrance into the fundamentals of sociological analysis, from economic principles and social inequality to mass consumption to participatory democracy. The work is clearly theoretically informed, but the most impressive contribution lies in the wealth of empirical studies, statistics, tables, and figures provided throughout the text. My students were particularly drawn to the empirical evidence and the consistent reference to contemporary debates about social issues, such as health care and campaign financing. The authors’ suggestions for ways to reduce social inequality ignited class discussions about the limits and potential of social change at the personal and structural level. I would recommend this text for any introductory sociology course focused on alternative understandings of social inequality in American society.” — Robyn Autry, Wesleyan University

“Imagine a book about American social dynamics written by a pair of public intellectuals who are also eminent academics, aimed at beginners. Imagine a book that gives equal weight to facts and ideas, treating each with lucidity and grace. This is that book.” — David Smith, University of Kansas

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