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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $34.75
  • July 2010
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-93067-2
  • 512 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

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  1. Sociology

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.


Endorsements & Reviews

Provocative critical analysis of America’s social institutions

Wright and Rogers provide a critical introduction to the sociological perspective that is grounded in theory and empirical data. In their analysis of the economic, social, and political institutions of the United States, they focus on four core American social values—efficiency, freedom, fairness, and democracy. Wright and Rogers 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 authors divide the book into three parts: Capitalism, Equality, and Democracy. Within each part, they offer readers short chapters analyzing topics such as health care, the environment, ending poverty in the United States, militarism and empire, and corporate control of the media. 

Written by two well-known sociologists who blend sociological analysis with practical strategies for reform

American Society: How It Really Works is the product of a long friendship and the shared values and concerns that animate it. American Society: How It Really Works originated as a course that Wright and Rogers developed jointly, which quickly became one of the most popular undergraduate sociology courses. Since no book covers the content that they teach in their course, they developed American Society: How It Really Works. The book reflects their different academic backgrounds, expertise, and practical experience. 

Affordable and portable

With its handy design, short chapters, and low price, American Society: How It Really Works is the perfect book for the reading list of an introduction to sociology or social problems course, political sociology class, or a course on social inequality. 


    Chapter 1:  Prologue: Perspectives and Values  
    Chapter 2:  What Kind of Society Is American Society? 

    Efficiency and Freedom

    Chapter 3:  The Capitalist Market: How It Is Supposed to Work 
    Chapter 4:  The Capitalist Market: How It Actually Works 
    Chapter 5:  The Environment 
    Chapter 6:  Transportation 
    Chapter 7:  Consumerism  
    Chapter 8:  Health Care 
    Chapter 9:  High-Road Capitalism


    Chapter 10:  Thinking about Fairness and Inequality  
    Chapter 11:  Class  
    Chapter 12:  Persistent Poverty and Rising Inequality  
    Chapter 13:  Ending Poverty in America  
    Chapter 14:  Racial Inequality
    Chapter 15:  Gender Inequality  


    Chapter 16:  Democracy: How It Works  
    Chapter 17:  Elections and Voting  
    Chapter 18:  Taxation and the Attack on the Affirmative State  
    Chapter 19:  Corporate Control of the Media  
    Chapter 20:  Militarism and Empire 
    Chapter 21:  Labor Unions  
    Chapter 22:  Democracy from Below  


    Chapter 23:  Possible Futures