“It's easy enough to make fun of bizarre claims about the paranormal and supposed alternative realities, from UFOs and astrology to ghost hunting and pseudo-prophecy. What Erich Goode has done though is to examine such claims seriously from the point of view of an experienced sociologist, showing how deviant ideas arise and spread. This highly readable and rewarding book tells us a great deal about the mass media and our educational system, and how contradictory ways of understanding the world coexist so uneasily in a postmodern society.”
—Philip Jenkins, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Humanities,
Department of History and Religious Studies, Pennsylvania State University
“Goode’s unique and outstanding work directs an illuminating sociological beam of light on one of humanity’s most fascinating riddles: the paranormal. His integrated analysis provides a straightforward and clear examination of who believes in the paranormal and why. Such an integrated and significant approach has never been presented before. Goode offers a truly fresh insight and a persuasive new perspective on the paranormal. This highly relevant and important work is a pleasure to own. It is the one book you simply must read if you really want to know and understand what the paranormal is all about.”
—Nachman Ben-Yehuda, professor of sociology
and former Dean of the Social Sciences, Hebrew University
Author of Sacrificing Truth: Archaeology and the Myth of Masada
Angels, ESP, psychics, astrology, ghosts, communicating with the dead, UFOs: These and other astounding phenomena are accepted as valid by a substantial proportion of the public. Why do so many members of our scientifically sophisticated society believe in assertions that scientists roundly and almost unanimously reject? And what does expressing such beliefs mean for the lives of those who do?
Unlike many books on the paranormal, which are focused on debunking or verifying such beliefs, in this book sociologist Erich Goode is interested in explaining paranormal belief as a sociological phenomenon: Who believes, why, and what are the consequences?
Goode points out a number of interesting sociological features of paranormal belief. First, mainstream educational institutions discourage paranormal speculation, and yet such beliefs remain immensely popular. This tells us a great deal about the limitations of the socialization process that takes place in our educational system.
Another intriguing aspect of paranormal beliefs is that they often show distinct parallels with related thought processes in a variety of other social contexts. For example, the belief that UFOs are extraterrestrial spacecraft fits like a jigsaw puzzle piece into political conspiracy theories. Furthermore, the willingness of the public to resort to paranormal explanations for strange, inexplicable, or anomalous phenomena provides the sociologist with insights into how receptive the public is to mass communication media. Finally, because they are regarded as unconventional in mainstream social circles, paranormal beliefs are very relevant to the sociological study of deviant behavior.
Goode offers these and many more insights in a fascinating analysis that shows how fruitful the paranormal can be for sociological study.
Shipping Weight: 1lbs
Erich Goode is the author of ten books, including Deviance in Everyday Life and Moral Panics (with Nachman Ben-Yehuda). He is Sociology Professor Emeritus at Stony Brook University.