THE Department of Sociology's Dr Johann Graaff has released What is Sociology?, the first in a new series of books commissioned by Oxford University Press South Africa (OUP SA) to serve as an economical alternative to the bulky and pricey British and American foundation textbooks in the field.
The 72-page volume is the opening instalment of the OUP SA's "Introduction to Sociology" series, which will consist of six titles. Graaff, who will also serve as the series' style editor, will pen a second book on Poverty and Development.
The other four publications will cover Social Issues, Crime and Deviance, Population Studies and, finally, Work and Organisations.
Contributors will include Dr Susan Ziehl from Rhodes University and Dr Derik Gelderblom of the University of South Africa (Unisa). All six volumes are expected to be published by the end of 2002.
The impetus for the books was mostly financial, explained Graaff. The normal sociology foundation textbooks – whether British or American – usually cost South African students anything between R400 and R500, he said.
"And quite frequently, students only use a quarter of those books' 500 or 600 pages over a 12-week course."
In response, Graaff and OUP did a survey around the country, looking at first- and second-year sociology courses. They then chose the most popular topics, turning these into subject material for the books.
"In effect, you get a separate book for each chapter," Graaff said. Each book will cost about R60.
But it's not just about cost, as the books will also be written to form a coherent whole, noted Graaff. "Quite often, first-year textbooks are disjointed, with concepts not quite hanging together. These books are designed to tell a coherent story."
In What is Sociology?, Graaff provides an introduction to the basic principles of the discipline; to the main sociological theories such of functionalism, Marxism and symbolic interactionisms; and to the works of the subject's main thinkers, ie Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber.
According to OUP, the "concise, accessibly written book addresses fundamental sociological questions" and "introduces its readers to the surprising, demanding, often magical world of sociological enquiry".
UCT students will begin to use What is Sociology? in the second semester of this year.