The Covid-19 pandemic and the disruptions of climate change are features of post-normal times. In Sociology in Post-Normal Times, Charles Thorpe contends that the modern project of creating normalcy within the nation state has broken down. Integral to this is sociology, which is the science of social reform. Drawing from the work of seminal theorists such as Zygmunt Bauman and Anthony Giddens, Thorpe contends that sociology's “society” is no longer viable because globalization has put an end to social reform, thus the assumptions and goals of sociology must be left behind in order to create a new global humanity. In the face of the pandemic and climate change, Sociology in Post-Normal Times demands no less than the birth of a global humanity beyond nation states as the precondition for human survival.
Charles Thorpe is professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Hypernormalization in Post-Normal Times
Chapter 2: From the Pathology of Normalcy to the Normalcy of Pathology
Chapter 3: Reason of State in a Global Age
Chapter 4: The Sociological Moment
Sociology in Post-Normal Times by Charles Thorpe is a deep probe into the “dark side” of modern capitalist society and its sociological past and future. Noteworthy is Thorpe’s ability to weave together disparate works of literature to provide a convincing explanation of the present juncture, whose warped and distorted nature continues to bewilder sociologists, researchers, and activists alike.
Charles Thorpe has woven together Marxist critiques of neoliberal society and radical critiques of sociology to account for the failure of American sociology since Gouldner to deal with emerging issues, such as social and policy confusion, the rise of the predatory state, elite disengagement in favor of globalization, and the disempowerment of the middle and working class. Instead, sociology has chosen to contribute to the internal Balkanization of American society that facilitates these trends. This book is an intense engagement with issues which sociology has turned away from and the issue of what sociology should be.
Few thinkers are up to the task of making sense of the complex world of our post-normal times. Charles Thorpe is an exception. With fierce intelligence and committed argument, his book reveals the contradictions and the pathologies of our current times. Thorpe shows how sociology was involved in the construction of modern American liberalism and remains complicit in sanctioning post-neoliberal forms of social power. Each page drips with insight rendering coherent what seems to many of us deeply confusing times.
Following an introductory overview, Thorpe fleshes out his argument in four well-referenced, thought-provoking chapters. His central argument is that sociology’s goal of contributing to stability within the nation-state has broken down, leading to the current polarization of society and the rise of American fascism. He draws on a wide range of seminal theorists, from classical thinkers such as Karl Marx and Max Weber to more modern contemporaries such as Zygmunt Bauman, Anthony Giddens, and especially Alvin Gouldner. Thorpe provides a Marxist critique of neoliberalism, skillfully demonstrating the complicity of sociology, which has failed to address the rise of the predatory state, elite disengagement, the detrimental impact of globalization on social reform, and the disempowerment of the working and middle classes. Thorpe’s book is an important contribution to sociological theory. This book is recommended for advanced undergraduates and graduate students.