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Janet M. Ruane and Karen A. Cerulo Second thoughts: seeing conventional wisdom through the sociological eye. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 1999 xv, 272 pp. ISBN 0-7619-8665-0 13.99

'Conventional wisdom' consists of those things that everyone 'knows to be true' and is embodied in statements such as numbers cannot lie, beauty is only skin deep, money is the root of all evil, honesty is the best policy, and other such pieces of wisdom. The aim of the authors of this book is to show how such statements of conventional wisdom can be tested through the application of sociological theory and method. In this way, fundamental ideas of sociology are presented in a way that catches the imagination and demonstrates that not all sociological theory results in common sense findings, and that, indeed, common sense understandings embodied in conventional wisdom may often lie well short of the truth.

The book is divided in a way that parallels many sociology texts and, therefore, can be used in association with most undergraduate texts in the field. There are sections, for example, devoted to social structure, stratification, deviance, and social institutions of different types. Each of these sections has a number of chapters related to specific bits of conventional wisdom, thus, Methods has only one essay on the theme, Numbers don't lie; whereas Deviance, crime, and social control has three on, Violence is on the rise in the United States - no one is safe, There ought to be a law, and Honesty is the best policy. In the last of these, for example, the student is required to face the fact that lying about one's income, or about one's age, or in order to spare another's feelings, are all socially accepted - even if the first is illegal in relation to the taxation authorities!

Each chapter ends with references to key texts and also Web sites of relevance and interest and there are exercises that can be readily undertaken by groups of students. There is an extensive list of references and a good glossary cum index.

This would be a useful text for any sociology course but its special interest for readers of Information Research is that it could be used to provide at least the basics of sociological thinking for students who might never otherwise learn anything whatsoever about the field. Given that virtually all information-related issues are capable of being explored through a sociological lens this text could put such students on the right track for discovering appropriate research approaches in the field.


Professor Tom Wilson
Publisher/Editor-in-Chief
19th November 1999