The Myth of Individualism is an engaging and accessible introduction to the relationship between self and society. Drawing on personal experiences, historical examples, and compelling stories, Callero dispels the myth of the self-reliant autonomous actor and demonstrates how our lives are shaped by powerful social forces. These include the power of cultural beliefs and symbols, lifelong socialization processes, the influence of authority, the power of small groups, and the encompassing control of economic systems associated with social class, state power, and mass media. The implications for identity and inequalities linked to race, gender, sexuality, and disability are at the center of each chapter. In the tradition of C. Wright Mills and Peter Berger, Callero presents sociological thinking as a tool for enlightenment and change and argues that the inherently social nature of all persons holds out promise for a better world.
New to the Fourth Edition:
Peter L. Callero is professor emeritus of sociology at Western Oregon University. He is the author of Being Unequal: How Identity Helps Make and Break Power and Privilege and Giving Blood: The Development of an Altruistic Identity (with Jane Piliavin) and coeditor of The Self-Society Dynamic: Cognition, Emotion, and Action. He has published extensively on issues of self, identity, and politics.
The Mask Controversy
Why All the Drama?
What is American Individualism?
A Culture of Individualism
Individualism in Economic Theory
What’s Wrong with Individualism?
Sociology as Myth Buster
2: Becoming a Person
The Socially Constructed Person
Language and the Power of Symbols
The Sociology of Thought
Group Differences in Social Cognition
The Sociology of Emotion
The Sociology of Identity
3: Conformity and Disobedience
Obedience to Authority
Solidarity and Conflict Between Groups
4: Family Matters
The Myth of Meritocracy
The Relationship Between Class and Family Life
Sources of Cultural Capital
The Privilege of Class
A New Type of Capitalism
Communities in Crisis
Care for Sale
6: Government Control
What is The State?
Types of State Power
The Sociological Context
State Borders and State Power
Borders are Not for Everyone
Making the Invisible Visible
7: From the Printing Press to the Internet
How Media Shapes Our Lives
The Power of the Printing Press
How the Printing Press Changed People
How the Printing Press Changed Society
How New Electronic Media Changed People
The Danger of Social Media
The Death of Molly Russell
How Electronic Media Changes Society
Social Change and Social Media
8: From “Me” to “We”
A Woman and a Movement
What is a Social Movement?
Social Movements and Democracy
The Globalization Movement
The World Trade Organization
About the Author
I find it particularly challenging to teach American students to think sociologically, because their belief in individualism makes it hard for them to see that macro social structures are not just their own personal micro experiences, writ large. The Myth of Individualism helps make their taken-for-granted commitment into a problem to consider. My Introductory classes begin with this book, so that the concept that individualism is a myth becomes one of the framing ideas of the course.
For several years now, The Myth of Individualism has oriented my students toward deep appreciation of how social relationships and complex social forces are fundamental to understanding behavior. This most recent and welcome edition offers clear-minded and updated examples –including around social media, the pandemic, and movements for racial justice – that will resonate with undergraduates’ experiences and spark important discussions in, and hopefully outside, the classroom.
An excellent introduction for novice sociologists.
The Myth of Individualism is a wonderful text to introduce and remind students how "social forces shape our individual lives and choices." In this day of scientific ignorance and distrust, Callero reminds us why we need social science and elucidates the ways in which science is a social process. The writing style is conversational and accessible, with a narrative approach and each chapter providing an illustrative story to engage students. Not only do students like the text, instructors will also appreciate how engaging it is and will enjoy reading it along with their students.
In The Myth of Individualism, Callero effectively introduces the reader to the sociological imagination. Through the exploration of historical contexts and contemporary social issues, the reader is left with tools to explore the social forces at work in their own lives.