Discover some of the major sociological works that helped define and shape the field of sociology. Here you will find a list of major historical research studies and projects that have contributed to the way we think about social behavior. Click on each title for a more detailed description.
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is a book written by sociologist and economist Max Weber in 1904-1905. The original version was in German and was translated to English in 1930. It is often considered a founding text in economic sociology and sociology in general.
The Asch Conformity Experiments, conducted by Solomon Asch in the 1950s, demonstrated the power of conformity in groups and showed that even simple objective facts cannot withstand the distorting pressure of group influence.
The Communist Manifesto is a book written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848 and has since been recognized as one of the world’s most influential political manuscripts. In it, Marx presents an analytical approach to class struggle and the problems of capitalism and his theories about the nature of society and politics.
The Milgram Obedience Studies, conducted from 1960 through 1974 by Stanley Milgram, found some chilling answers questioning the limits of social pressure.
Suicide, written by French sociologist Emile Durkheim in 1897, was a groundbreaking book in the field of sociology. It was a case study of suicide, a publication unique for its time that provided an example of what the sociological monograph should look like.
The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life is a book that was published in 1959, written by sociologist Erving Goffman. In it, he uses the imagery of theater in order to portray the importance of human and social action and interaction. He refers to this as the dramaturgical model of social life.
In The McDonaldization of Society, author George Ritzer takes the central elements of Max Weber’s work and expands and updates them, producing an analysis of the impact of structural change on human interaction and identity. It is not about McDonald’s itself, but rather how the principles of the fast food industry have come to dominate all parts of American society and the rest of the world.
'Democracy in America,' written by Alexis de Tocqueville is considered one of the most comprehensive and insightful books ever written about the U.S. The book deals with issues such as religion, the press, money, class structure, racism, the role of government, and the judicial system – issues that are just as relevant today as they were then.
The History of Sexuality is a three-volume series of books written between 1976 and 1984 by French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault. His main goal in the books is to disprove the idea that Western society had repressed sexuality since the 17th century and that sexuality had been something that society did not talk about.
Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By In America is a book by Barbara Ehrenreich based on her ethnographic research on low-wage jobs in America. Inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform at the time, she decided to immerse herself into the world of low-wage earning Americans.