Adorno, Theodor. 2001. “How to Look at Television.”
A critical take on America’s favorite leisure activity by one of the Frankfurt School’s most prominent theorists.
Bauman, Zygmunt. 2000 . Modernity and the Holocaust.
A brilliant and disturbing argument about how rationalization and bureaucracy helped make the Holocaust possible. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 are especially relevant and highly recommended.
Giddens, Anthony. 2000. Runaway World: How Globalization is Reshaping Our Lives. New York: Routledge.
This collection of lectures from the British theorist provides a sweeping and mostly optimistic take on globalization.
Giddens, Anthony. 1990. The Consequences of Modernity. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Giddens examines changes in social institutions associated with modernity, providing both new opportunities and concerns. Giddens stresses ongoing tension between issues of trust and risk, and security and danger in modern society.
Lanier, Jaron. 2010. You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto. New York: Knopf.
Lanier, the computer scientist who created virtual reality technology, takes a critical but balanced view of the disenchanting effects of many contemporary digital technologies.
Lyon, David. 1994. The Electronic Eye: The Rise of the Surveillance Society. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
A sociologist updates Foucault for the digital age, exploring how electronic surveillance technologies affect our everyday lives as well as the broader social order.
Mann, Michael. 2005. The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing. New York: Cambridge University Press.
This provocative book by the UCLA sociologist argues that ethnic cleansing is part of modernity and, in particular, democracy. It is a different take than Bauman’s examination of the Holocaust but is just as important in its implications.
Schlosser, Eric. 2001. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books.
For a good example of the rationalization of food itself, see Chapter 5 on “Why the Fries Taste Good.”
Shearing, C.D & P.C. Stenning. 1985. “From the Panopticon to Disney World: The Development of Discipline” pg. 335-49 in Perspectives in Criminal Law, Anthony N. Doob and Edward L. Greenspan, eds. Aurora, Ontario, Canada: Canada Law Book.
A short article examining the use of the built environment and surveillance to create systems of consensual control at Disney World. A perfect companion for Foucault.
Weber, Max. 1919. From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, edited by H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills. New York: Routledge.
This collection includes “Science as a Vocation,” Weber’s famous lecture on what modern science can and cannot guarantee those who seek it out as their profession.
Foucault, Michel. 2001. “The Great Confinement.” Pp. 35–60 in Madness and Civilization. New York: Routledge.
Another excerpt from Foucault’s study of the construction of “madness” in Europe. This chapter explores how “madness” was handled in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Wheatland, Thomas. 2009. The Frankfurt School in Exile. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
In this book, Wheatland re-examines the role that the Frankfurt School, most notably Horkheimer and Marcuse, played in American intellectual life and German postwar sociology. You can listen to an interview with Wheatland here .
Tomasello, Michael. 1999. The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
A fascinating look into the social and cultural origins of human consciousness from the perspective of evolutionary theory.