Understanding Society through Popular Music: 2nd Edition (Paperback) book cover

Understanding Society through Popular Music

2nd Edition

Edited by Joseph A. Kotarba

© 2013 – Routledge

206 pages

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Paperback: 9780415641951
pub: 2013-01-11
Hardback: 9780415641944
pub: 2013-01-14
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780203076811
pub: 2013-04-02
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About the Book

Written for Introductory Sociology and Sociology of Popular Music courses, the second edition of Understanding Society through Popular Music uses popular music to illustrate fundamental social institutions, theories, sociological concepts, and processes. The authors use music, a social phenomenon of great interest, to draw students in and bring life to their study of sociology. The new edition has been updated with cutting edge thinking on and current examples of subcultures, politics, and technology.


Music is a basic feature of social life. This important book helps students to really understand the extent that music affects all major social institutions and clearly shows how popular music can illustrate key sociological concepts. I would certainly use this accessible and well-written book in any introductory sociology course.

- Christopher J. Schneider, Sociology, University of British Columbia

Understanding Society Through Popular Music helps me to accomplish two of the main goals of my social history of rock course: 1) to get the students to see themselves and their relationships to music as part of an ongoing and evolving cyclic process -- the very same process of self-discovery and expression in which their great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents also participated; and which their children, grandchildren, etc., are likely to experience; and, 2), to be cognizant of the many ways in which music functions in our lives and influences our thoughts and behavior.

- John Siqueiros, Music, The University of Texas at El Paso

This book captivates students’ sociological imagination by exploring one of the most interesting subjects of the social world: music! Through providing engaging case studies, helpful theory summaries, and real life examples, this book not only enlivens students’ understanding of sociological concepts but will also deepen their appreciation of popular music.

- Jeneve R. Brooks, Sociology, Troy University

A good read all around. Excellent description/explanation of sociological theories plus current anecdotal application to musical situations that span a wide array of interests. It is an imaginative and fun journey for any ethnographic tourist – whether it is a student exploring sociology for the first time, or a student serious about the study of sociology and/or sociology of music.

- Sara Horsfall, Sociology, Texas Wesleyan University

Written by four top scholars in the field of music sociology, Understanding Society through Popular Music provides an accessible yet theoretically sophisticated introduction to the key ideas and concepts in our discipline. Engaging to its core, students in my introductory level survey course and upper level seminar on popular music subcultures rave about its relevance to issues they encounter in everyday life. This is one of the few texts that students will read cover to cover, and come to class asking for more.

-Robert Owen Gardner, Sociology & Anthropology, Linfield College

Our students swim in a sea of pop culture, music, images, objects and texts. This book speaks their language, telling sociological stories through music, and identifying the ways in which pop music permeates our social worlds. The authors have provided an engaging soundtrack for courses in introductory sociology, sociology of popular music and popular culture, and social psychology, among others. Students and professors will enjoy having this text on their playlist.

- Kerry O. Ferris, Sociology, Northern Illinois University

Understanding Society Through Popular Music deserves a sociological "high five" for a job well done. This revised edition connects the importance of sociology to "everyday Life" even further by focusing on a subject important to us all – music! By applying a sociological lens to popular forms of music at the individual and group level, this book delivers up important theories in our discipline but does so in an engaging and delightful writing style. From our individual experience and cultural understanding of music to studies of music scenes, subcultures and institutions, students will see how music influences and is influenced by key sociological concepts such as -- social identity, deviance, race, class, gender, technology, institutions (e.g., family and religion), globalization, power and politics. An excellent teaching tool, this book doesn’t just explain the significance of music in our lives -- it reminds us of the importance of sociology for all areas of social life. This book is an excellent text or supplemental text for undergraduates and a research primer for those who study music from a variety of other disciplines.

- Lori Holyfield, Sociology and Criminal Justice, University of Arkansas

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements Preface Introduction 1. Interaction 2. Families 3. Self and Life Course 4. Youth, Deviance and Subcultures 5. Religion 6. Politics 7. Gender, Race and Class 8. Technology 9. Globalization and Social Change References Index

About the Editor

Joseph A. Kotarba is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Social Inquiry at Texas State University-San Marcos. He received his doctorate from the University of California at San Diego. Dr. Kotarba¹s scholarly focus is the sociology of everyday life, and he works primarily in the areas of culture, health, qualitative methods, and existential social theory. His current projects include a study of the culture of translational scientific research, funded by the National Institutes on Health; a study of the delivery of emergency medical care to professional athletes and musicians; and the design of a sociological model of the pop music song. Dr. Kotarba is the author or editor of eight books, and ninety-five articles and book chapters. He is the 2009 recipient of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction¹s George Herbert Mead Award for Lifetime Achievement. Dr. Kotarba is also the 2010 recipient of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction¹s Mentor¹s Excellence Award. His most recent book is Baby Boomer Rock Œn Roll Fans:The Music Never Ends (Scarecrow Press, 2012).

Bryce Merrill currently works at the Western States Arts Federation, a research, technology, and cultural policy organization, and has been instrumental in developing the nation’s first performing arts grant program for independent musicians, the Independent Music on Tour (IMTour) program. His applied research now examines the working lives of touring independent musicians in the Western United States. He is also a fellow at the Center for Social Inquiry at Texas State University–San Marcos.J. Patrick Williams is a sociologist who has studied and taught various aspects of media culture, pop culture, and subculture, with a particular focus on how they relate to young people. He is the author of Subcultural Theory: Traditions and Concepts (Polity, 2011) and the editor of Authenticity in Culture, Self and Society (Ashgate, 2009), The Players' Realm: Studies on the Culture of Video Games and Gaming (McFarland, 2007), and Gaming as Culture: Essays in Social Reality, Identity and Experience in Fantasy Games (McFarland, 2006). He works at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Phillip Vannini is Professor of Communication & Culture at Royal Roads University in Victoria, BC, and Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Public Ethnography. He is author/editor of nine books, including the recent Ferry Tales: Mobility, Place, and Time on Canada's West Coast and The Senses in Self, Society, and Culture. He is also editor of the Routledge series in innovative ethnographies.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Pop Vocal
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Popular Culture
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General


Table of Contents and Preface