"Few writers have had as wide an impact on contemporary thinking about the sociology of modern society, culture, and religion as Peter Berger. Here now from this distinguished scholar is another wonderfully engaging book, filled with candid personal detail, compelling humor, and characteristic sophistication in its understanding of the complex world in which we live."
—Robert Wuthnow, department chair of Sociology at Princeton University
“Peter Berger's memoir, a journey in ideas, is an inspired reading of our times. His many gifts as thinker and writer are on splendid display. He recounts how as a sociologically minded analyst of religion, he abandoned one of the central pieties of both European and American sociology, namely, secularization theory, and developed an enduring research agenda. His tireless work as an intellectual engaged in public issues has led to new and better understandings of the social forces of religion and economic development throughout the world. Peter Berger is that rare person whose commanding intellect is matched by his enormous generosity to generations of students and colleagues who recognize in him the true spirit of intellectual inquiry. Social scientists have a great deal to learn from him and his skillful ‘art of mistrust’ at the core of his approach to social reality. As he concludes, ‘A morally sensitive social scientist will, I think, instinctively move toward middle positions (middle between radical change and stubborn preservation) on most issues.’"
—Jonathan B. Imber, Wellesley College,
and Editor-in-Chief, Society
Peter Berger is arguably the best-known American sociologist living today. Since the 1960s he has been publishing books on many facets of the American social scene, and several of his works are now considered classics. So it may be hard to believe Professor Berger’s description of himself as an “accidental sociologist.” But that in fact accurately describes how he stumbled into sociology.
In this witty, intellectually stimulating memoir of his career, Berger explains not only how he became a social scientist, but the many adventures that this calling has led to. Rather than writing a complete autobiography, the author focuses on the main intellectual issues that motivated his work and the various people and situations he encountered in the course of this work. Full of memorable vignettes and colorful characters depicted in a lively narrative often laced with humor, Berger’s memoir conveys the excitement that a study of social life can bring.
The first part of the book describes Berger’s initiation into sociology through the New School for Social Research, “a European enclave in the midst of Greenwich Village bohemia.” Berger was first a student at the New School and later a young professor amidst a clique of like-minded individuals. There he published The Social Construction of Reality (with colleague Thomas Luckmann), one of his most successful books, followed by The Sacred Canopy on the sociology of religion, also still widely cited.
The middle part of the book covers Berger’s many travels as a “globe-trekking sociologist.” Various projects took him to Mexico, where he studied approaches to Third World poverty; then to East Asia, where he discovered the potential of capitalism to improve social conditions; and to South Africa, where he chaired an international study group on the future of post-Apartheid society.
In the concluding portion of the book, Berger concentrates on his role as the director of a research center at Boston University. For over two decades he and his colleagues have been tackling such important issues as globalization, the secularization of Europe, and the ongoing dialectic between relativism and fundamentalism in contemporary culture.
What comes across through all this flurry of activity is Berger’s boundless curiosity with the many ways in which people interact in society. Adventures of an Accidental Sociologist offers longtime Berger readers as well as newcomers to sociology a rich mosaic of ideas, many fascinating tangents, and ample proof that the sociologist’s attempt to explain the world is anything but boring.
Shipping Weight: 2lbs
Peter L. Berger is University Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, at Boston University and the founder and Senior Research Fellow of the Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs. He has written numerous books on sociological theory, the sociology of religion, and Third World development. Among his more recent books are In Praise of Doubt (with Anton Zijderveld); Religious America, Secular Europe? (with Grace Davie and Effie Fokas); Questions of Faith; Many Globalizations (edited with Samuel Huntington); and Redeeming Laughter: The Comic Dimension of Human Experience. Professor Berger has received honorary degrees from Loyola University, University of Notre Dame, University of Geneva, University of Munich, Sofia University, and Renmin University of China.