Penn State

Jeffery Ulmer - Professor of Sociology and Crime, Law, and Justice, Penn State University Park

Book Title: The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge

Author: Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann

Book Description:

Upon a recommendation from my undergraduate mentor, Dr. J. Thomas Walker of Susquehanna University, I read Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann's classic, The Social Construction of Reality, the summer before I began graduate study in sociology at Penn State in 1988. This book masterfully synthesizes the thought of American Pragmatists John Dewey and G.H. Mead, German phenomenology, Max Weber’s interpretive sociology and his conception of power, and—crucially—Emile Durkheim’s treatment of culture.  Berger and Luckmann lay a foundation for understanding the very fabric of the social—from the inherently social lived experience of individuals to the contours of large scale social institutions.  It may sound from that description as though the book is dry and inaccessible, but it is a lively and interesting read.  The book especially shaped my career-long interest in the role of culture in social behavior and in organizations, which I have applied in my research and teaching in the sociology of crime and criminal justice decision making.  Since that summer 24 years ago, this book has provided the foundation for the way I think of literally every sociological issue I have encountered in my research and teaching.  

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