Most important social psychology books of past 50 years?
June 3, 2008 12:31 PM   Subscribe

What have been the most important books in social science (including psychology, political science, sociology, anthropology, economics, "applied" social sciences like marketing, and so on) of the past 50 years?
posted by Malad to Science & Nature (19 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
The Third Way by Anthony Giddens was reportedly a huge influence on both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Exactly how important (new, original, valuable) it is/was beyond that is up for debate.
posted by Martin E. at 12:41 PM on June 3, 2008

Here are a few influential books in the field of Management (from an academic's perspective)

Cyert & March: A Behavioral Theory of the Firm (in my mind this is the single most influential book for scholars of Management and Organization Theory)
Clayton Christensen: The Innovator's Dilemma
Thomas Kuhn: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Michael Porter: Competitive Strategy
Pfeffer & Salancik: The External Control of Organizations
posted by bove at 12:54 PM on June 3, 2008

Anthony Downs, An Economic Theory of Democracy.
Mancur Olson: The Logic of Collective Action
posted by paultopia at 1:00 PM on June 3, 2008

Wow, that's a pretty wide range of topics... I'll just throw a couple essentials, in random order:

Culture and society, 1780-1950 By Raymond Williams
The Political Economy of Communication by Vincent Mosco
Michal Foucault's History of Sexuality and Discipline and Punish
Harold Innis' Empire and Communications (though its 8 years too old)
posted by ddaavviidd at 1:00 PM on June 3, 2008

oups- forget the links - something went wrong...
posted by ddaavviidd at 1:02 PM on June 3, 2008

Anti-Oedipus by Deleuze & Guattari
The Divided Self by RD Laing
On Attachment by John Bowlby
The State We're In by Will Hutton (Blair's original bible, pre-Giddens, If I remember right)
posted by Blacksun at 1:23 PM on June 3, 2008

Mancur Olson---The Logic of Collective Action
Richard Neustadt---Presidential Power
Robert Dahl---Who Governs?
David Mayhew---Congress: The Electoral Connection
Robert Putnam---Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy
posted by shadow vector at 1:23 PM on June 3, 2008

Economics: The Monetary History of the United States, Milton Friedman, 1963
Psychology: Beyond Freedom and Dignity, B. F. Skinner, 1971
Politics/Gender: The Feminine Mystique, Betty Freidan, 1963
posted by Pastabagel at 1:50 PM on June 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, I'd like to point out that if you had extended your range of interest to "the post-war period" you would have captured a number of far more influential texts written by people who were doing work in their field during the war, but could only publish afterwards.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:55 PM on June 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

This list of the "100 most influential books since the War," compiled by the Times literary supplement, is a good place to start.

For my part, I'd add "Anarchy, State, and Utopia" by Robert Nozick and "A Theory of Justice" by John Rawls to the other excellent recommendations here. Two very different, very influential theories of society.
posted by ecmendenhall at 1:55 PM on June 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks so far, everyone!

Pastabagel, that's a good point. I guess I am trying to capture works that were relatively more recent and my boundary is not super-sharp... books that were published between 50 and 63 years ago would not be too far amiss :-).
posted by shivohum at 2:30 PM on June 3, 2008

Obedience to Authority by Stanley Milgram. This is a great question!
posted by shaun at 2:38 PM on June 3, 2008

William Julius Wilson, The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy.
posted by The Straightener at 3:05 PM on June 3, 2008

A fairly recent book, Getting to Maybe is making fairly big waves in the social services sector in my city.
posted by never used baby shoes at 3:15 PM on June 3, 2008

Not a book, but this eight page article by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, two psychologists, has torn up law, economics, finance, public policy, and a whole host of other fields. The big idea is that people make decisions on the basis of mental shortcuts, some of which K & T identify in this article. This was a challenge to the rational actor model on which classical economics is based.

K & T received the Nobel Prize in economics in part based on this groundbreaking article.

The article is dense in a good way. Each sentence is worth reading. Nothing is more complex than it needs to be. It's like whiskey; you need to slowly sip it. Don't expect that you can chug these eight pages at one sitting.
posted by ferdydurke at 5:11 PM on June 3, 2008

The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs?
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:12 PM on June 3, 2008

Sociobiology: the new synthesis, by E.O. Wilson

A Mathematical Theory of Communication by C.E. Shannon is the computer science paper of the century--and was incredibly influential across many of the humanities as well. It was hugely important to the development of psychological theories of human attention from Broadbent, through Cherry, Deutsche, and Treisman.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 8:13 PM on June 3, 2008

Claude Shannon's groundbreaking paper is available online, incidentally:

A Mathematical Theory of Communication
posted by voltairemodern at 8:33 PM on June 3, 2008

Suggestions are incredibly varied. Here's my picks for social psychology. Some of the more recent ones are more personal opinion. We'll see if history concurs.

The Nature of Prejudice - Gordon Allport

When Prophecy Fails - Leon Festinger & Stanley Schachter (first book to apply Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance. A buzzword which only seemed to have made it to the media recently despite this book being nearly 52 years old.)

Obediance to authority: an experimental view - stanley milgram
(all about the classic milgram experiments by milgram himself)

White bears and other unwanted thoughts - Daniel Wegner
(this man is in a class by himself. excellent researcher and a great writer.)

The illusion of conscious will - Daniel Wegner

Losing control: how and why people fail at self-regulation - Roy Baumeister, Todd Heatherton and Dianne Tice
(book that preceded Baumeister and Heatherton's influential limited resource model of self-regulation... something that only hit the mainstream media this year).

Dan Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness could become a classic. It's been a big hit so far.

Other than that, i'd have to second Wilson's Sociobiology for kickstarting evolutionary psychology and having a huge influence, either directly or indirectly, on social psychologists, cognitive neuroscientists, hell even philosophers! While I'm at it, it'll hardly count as a classic, but Wilson's mainstream account of his Ant studies, Journey to the Ants, is breathtaking, even for non animal biology types. It makes one marvel at the complexity of insect society and makes one despair for our chances at ever getting to grips with human society. At least, not without a lot more funding!
posted by Smegoid at 10:36 PM on June 3, 2008

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