- Brief Notice
Karraker, Meg Wilkes. Diversity and the Common Good: Civil Society, Religion, and Catholic Sisters in a Small City. (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. 2013. Pp. x, 165. $60.00. ISBN 978-0-7391-8152-2.)
In the introduction to this book (p. 17), the author states that its purpose is to explore how a small city can create civil society, and the role that religion (specifically, the role that Catholic sisters) might play in this. However, she does not really get around to addressing this question until page 120—a mere nine pages before the end. It is there that she mentions the key role of “small communities of critical thinkers in developing new ideas and inspiring their dissemination”; it is there that she lists requirements for effective community building and notes the role that social networks play in expanding social capital. What is missing in the previous 119 pages, however, are specific descriptions of how the various communities of sisters have enacted these roles. For example, the activities of SET (Sisters Engaging Together) could have been better described (beyond a mention that it erected a billboard urging the community to welcome immigrants). When and how did this group interface with the rest of the community? How did the sisters display instances of embeddedness, assets, and centrality, which were listed as essential on page 109? Exactly how did the networks of sisters mentioned on page 106 function: were they densely or loosely linked, and what links did they have to the larger community? On page 102, the author states that the sisters were “not well-known in the larger community outside of the civic leaders,” so is it enough only to have links to the leaders? This book could potentially have been an exciting dialogue among several literatures in sociology, history, and the study of nonprofit organizations, but it falls far short of its promise. There are also minor factual inaccuracies (St. Francis de Sales was not a Jesuit; St. Cloud is a diocese, not an archdiocese; making simple vows predates the Second Vatican Council), instances of sloppy editing (“Peter” instead of “Robert” Wuthnow on p. 2, Roger Finke’s name is missing a final “e,” the NAACP and the ACLU are switched around on p. 46), and grammatically confusing sentences. It is a shame that such an important and neglected topic was not better covered.
Patricia Wittberg, S.C.
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis [End Page 833]