pop sociology

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Given that many of the concerns of sociology have an immediate connection to everyday life in general, and social problems in particular, sociology perhaps more than other academic disciplines is open to a stream of popularizations. Almost anybody, it seems, can call themselves a sociologist—even without formal professional training.

Four kinds of pop sociology can be distinguished. First, anyone who elects to comment on or write about social matters may be seen as a pop sociologist. Second, there are many sociologists who see it as an important part of their professional work to make their ideas and findings accessible to a wider social audience than those found in universities and colleges. They may even work alongside social movements in an attempt to achieve this, or aim to popularize their work through publishing their writing outside academic journals. They may also be regular media commentators on the issue of their concern. Thirdly, there are academics who find in the course of their work that their studies have received a certain prominence (for example, sensational findings on crime and drugs), and who are momentarily forced into the public eye, often against their will and sometimes against their talents. Some of these may enjoy short-run celebrity status. Finally, there is a special group who conduct sociological studies intended for popular consumption. For example, Vance O. Packard, an American journalist and freelance writer, became a well-known popularizer of sociology through books such as The Hidden Persuaders (1957) and The Ultra Rich (1989).

Being able to draw a clear line between academic sociology and pop sociology is therefore not always easy.

Subjects: Sociology.

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