Sources: Emergence Through Convergence

Online Sources

Radiolab Podcast on “Why Isn’t the Sky Blue?”

Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich explore how perceptions of color are shaped by social/cultural context, walking the audience through both historical texts (where words for colors appear in stages and blue is always last) and neuropsychological research on color perception. The podcast is available here and helps illustrate the internalization of socially constructed reality as described by Berger and Luckmann.

Freakonomics Podcast on "The Suicide Paradox" and Related Content

The Freakonomics guys—economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner—take a look at why suicide rates rise as a country’s standard of living increases, just as Durkheim would have suspected. The podcast and related content can be found here.

Barry, Dan. “This Land” column. New York Times.

These compelling stories of how communities across America are coping with the recession provide a glimpse into the everyday world of social solidarity. Each of his columns can be read here.

Strengthening Your Social Networks

This short article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel examines the latent function of gym memberships as a method of interpersonal networking for small business owners.

Film and Television Sources

Devil's Playground

This documentary follows Amish teens as they enter rumspringa—the rite of passage in which they enter the “English” world of sex, drugs, and alcohol at age 16—and decide to remain in or leave their tight-knit communities. Click here for more information.

The Lost Children of Rockdale County

This PBS Frontline documentary about a 1996 syphilis outbreak in an affluent Atlanta suburb is a poignant depiction of Durkheim’s theory of anomie and the breakdown of social bonds during periods of rapid social change.

A Life Apart: Hasidism in America

A documentary exploring how one Orthodox Jewish subculture maintains a strict sense of the sacred in a secular world. A great film companion to Durkheim’s Elementary Forms of Religious Life.

The Village

A psychological thriller written, produced and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, that portrays the collective life of a small 19th century community including the construction and employment of symbols and rituals for maintaining group solidarity. Click here for the film’s trailer.

Technology and Social Order (and Stephen Colbert)

Sociologist Sherry Turkle is one of the leading experts on how new technologies are affecting the social order. Here she talks about her research and new book on The Colbert Report.

The Suicide Tourist

This PBS Frontline documentary (which can be watched in full online) examines the assisted-suicide system in Switzerland, the only country in the world where outsiders can enter for the sole purpose of ending their lives. Consider showing it for a lively discussion for what Durkheim might have said about so-called “suicide tourism.”


This charming film explores how a 1950s community undergoes widespread social change when two 1990s teenagers enter and begin to disrupt the social fabric. Read more about how it can be used in the classroom here

Reading Sources

Berger, Peter. 1967. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Berger extends his theory of social constructionism to illustrate how religion gives cosmic support to more precarious social institutions.

Douglas, Mary. 1996 [1970]. Natural Symbols: Explorations in Cosmology. London: Routledge.

This foundational work by cultural theorist and anthropologist Mary Douglas introduces her ideas on “group” commitments and “grid” regulations. Consider pairing her chapter, “Away from Ritual,” with Durkheim’s Elementary Forms.

Hacking, Ian. 1999. The Social Construction of What? Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

In the decades since Berger and Luckmann’s famous treatise, the paradigm of social constructionism has exploded into a veritable theoretical industry. In this very smart and useful book, the philosopher Ian Hacking tells us that to sort out what social construction actually means as a theoretical paradigm, we need to think more critically about what exactly, people are arguing is being constructed. A critical but even-handed guide to social constructionism as it is used today.

Latour, Bruno. 2007. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. New York: Oxford University Press.

Inspired by fieldwork in scientific laboratories and ethnomethodological insights, a prominent social theorist introduces readers to Actor-Network-Theory, a novel approach that argues non-humans are just as integral a part of making social order as humans.

Meyrowitz, Joshua. 1986. No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior. New York: Oxford University Press.

Meyrowitz examines the effect electronic media, most notably television, have had on not only how we interact with one another, but also what we know of each other and how we experience reality itself.

Parsons, Talcott and Edward Shils. 1951. Toward a General Theory of Action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

A classic examination of structural-functionalism that examines how people navigate the demands of both individual needs and social expectations in making decisions and taking action, with the ultimate goal of maintaining social consensus.

Sherif, Muzafer, O. J. Harvey, William R. Hood, Carolyn W. Sherif, and Jack White. 1961. The Robbers Cave Experiment: Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma.

This “true life” Lord of the Flies describes a classic experiment by social psychologist Muzafer Sherif in which 24 twelve-year-old boys experience in-group solidarity and out-group hostility on a campground in an Oklahoma state park.

Smith, Christian. 2003. Moral, Believing Animals: Human Personhood and Culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

Smith argues that humans are fundamentally moral and believing animals, providing a nuanced take on social constructionism and a rethinking of Durkheim’s view of the sacred and the social order.

Turkle, Sherry. 2011. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books.

A leading sociologist of technology explores technology’s effects on contemporary social order, especially the quality of human relationships.

Watts, Duncan J. 2004. Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age. New York: W. W. Norton.

An explanation of network theory, a cutting-edge science of social order, by one of its most prominent proponents.