Enriching the Sociological Imagination: How Radical Sociology Changed the Discipline (review)
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Enriching the Sociological Imagination: How Radical Sociology Changed the Discipline. Edited by Rhonda F. Levine. Paradigm Publishers. 2005. 357 pages. $93 cloth, $29.95 paper.

The transformative process of developing a sociological imagination is, by definition, radical. As an individual pastime, it encourages some of us to open doors that most would rather leave shut. However, pastimes often succumb to ritual, ritual to comfort, and comfort rests easy in the status [End Page 594] quo, leaving behind broader theoretical concerns such as progressive humanistic social change. Rhonda Levine has put together a very important book, Enriching the Sociological Imagination: How Radical Sociology Changed the Discipline, that emerges at a time when we need to be reminded of the radical roots of our discipline and how some members of the previous generation of sociologists converted a pastime into a relevant passion. The essays and retrospectives in this volume are useful for those who contemporarily carry the torch of radical sociology, collectively making the road of progressive social change and human rights by walking it and creating a better world for all who inhabit it.

The recipe of Levine's stellar book is one part sociology of sociology, one part progressive memoir, one part human history and one part treatise on hope for promises unfulfilled. The content is drawn primarily from The Insurgent (which ran from 1969 to 1987, from newspaper to full journal format – now known as Critical Sociology). While not representative of what radical sociology has offered us in those years, readers will see familiar names: Flacks, Therborn, Domhoff, Molotch, Bowles and Gintis, Burris, Gimenez, Bonacich, Eisenstein, Wright and Block. One should also appreciate the apparatus utilized to organize this volume. Herein are 11 original Insurgent essays with retrospectives written by the authors: where they succeeded, where they failed, what it meant to be a radical sociologists during these years, and providing some links to what radical sociology must do presently. We glean contours of the movements of the oppressed, insurgent methodologies, policy regimes, modes of academic production, the structures of capitalism, power, patriarchy, hegemony, class, and how these authors' work and the work of progressive sociology today either does or does not critically address the human condition. Herein lies the hope, and yet, hope recognizes the extant failures of social systems for the realization of humanity.

The book delivers on many of its promises and should be on the bookshelf, if not in the briefcase, of every sociologist and student of sociology who desires to understand their historical, present, and future relevance in the realization of a just world. The tools and pieces herein are significant – though readers often must piece them together.

While not wanting to take away from the central place that this book should hold within our discipline, I do feel that much was missing in this future-looking historical sociology of radical sociology. First, the choice of articles is not clear, leaving this history of "progressive sociology" (at least in the pages of The Insurgent) whitewashed, privileged and ignorant of the even more marginalized radical work of feminists/critical gender scholars as well as black, Latino/Chicano, Native American and international scholars untouched. Second, while the title contains two assumptions of radical sociology – that it has "enriched" and/or "changed" the discipline [End Page 595] – looking at the authors' retrospectives, combined with the knowledge of our contemporary state-of-the-discipline, one is left realizing that this work has indeed enriched our sociological imaginations, but the institutional structures and departmental cultures within sociology as a discipline, seem rather "unchanged" as we face the same issues of white, patriarchal, heterosexual, capitalist modes of sociological knowledge production and lack of relevance to the objects of our studies today. Finally, what would have made this volume even more useful is if it would have, through its history, memoir, and look forward, helped define the possibilities of contemporary sociologies that are radical, progressive, socialist, grounded, humanistic, and how to link departments with lives, with communities, with globalities, to literally engage in social change – not publish in journals and then wax on such publications and theoretical musings toward the end of our careers.