Sociology Looks at the Arts (Paperback) book cover

Sociology Looks at the Arts

By Julia Rothenberg

© 2014 – Routledge

286 pages

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Sociology Looks at the Arts is intended as a concise yet nuanced introduction to the sociology of art. This book will provide a foundation for teaching and discussing a range of questions and perspectives used by sociologists who study the relationship between the arts – including music, performing arts, visual arts, literature, film and new media – and society.


"Sociology Looks at the Arts comes at exactly the right moment in the historical relationship of the arts and the social sciences. From the very outset, with the personal narrative of her exploration of the musical worlds opened to her by the magic of a great musician – Miles Davis – she reveals her position that the aesthetic experience should be taken as seriously as the socio-economic-political context that enables it. From that point on, Rothenberg draws the reader inexorably into her understanding of the complexity of that relationship, the changing nature of the both the contexts and the art forms in which they emerge, and their meanings for human beings. She succeeds in giving due attention to the changing character of globalization, commercialization, and the revolutions - political, economic, cultural – that nudge social meanings of what constitutes ART from one function to another over time."

-Vera L. Zolberg, Sociology, New School for Social Research, and author of Constructing a Sociology of the Arts

"Sociology Looks at the Arts is a masterful invitation to the sociology of art. Written in an accessible and engaging style, enlivened by timely and relevant examples, this book presents an original synthesis of diverse approaches to the social analysis of art and culture. Rothenberg has provided an exciting addition to the too sparse introductory literature in this field. Her book will be an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to teach and learn about the relationship between social structure, aesthetic experience and works of art."

-Alain Quemin, Sociology, University Paris-8, France, Past President of Research Committee # 37, Sociology of the Arts, of the International Sociological Association

"Rothenberg looks at the worlds of the arts through a variety of sociology's sharpest lenses, accompanied by a wealth of delightful images and quotes that make this book a pleasure to read and teach."

-James M. Jasper, Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center, Author of The Art of Moral Protest

"Stepping into the divide between social science and artistic creation, Julia Rothenberg's book provides not only a superbly researched introduction to the way social scientists investigate culture, but her nuanced reading of contemporary art clarifies ongoing debates about political agency and activist aesthetics. Sociology Looks at the Arts will swiftly become an essential textbook for anyone teaching on art as a form of social production."

-Gregory Sholette, Studio Art and Graphic Design, CUNY Queens College, and Author of Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture

Table of Contents

1. How and when did our current understanding of "art" as a special category of human activity and experience emerge? 2. What has social theory had to say about the arts? 3. How do sociologists "do" the sociology of art? 4. What does the field look like today?

About the Author

Julia Rothenberg is an assistant professor of sociology at Queensborough Community College.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General

Table of Contents and Preface