The best books for reigniting meaningful social sciences

Yiannis Gabriel Author Of Return to Meaning: A Social Science with Something to Say
By Yiannis Gabriel

The Books I Picked & Why

Learn to Write Badly

By Michael Billig

Book cover of Learn to Write Badly

Why this book?

This is a must for any aspiring social scientist. Ironically entitled, the book offers a brilliant account of how many researchers in the social sciences resort to esoteric jargon and abstruse arguments to promote themselves in their academic micro-fiefdoms, defend their areas of expertise from outsiders but also to obfuscate and conceal their own ignorance. The book, however, can also be read on how to write well and get published in the social sciences.


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On Bullshit

By Harry G. Frankfurt

Book cover of On Bullshit

Why this book?

This book describes how meaningless talk has conquered the world. It explains why so much written text is entirely meaningless and yet it gets published. But bullshit is not just meaningless – it is speech directly or indirectly intended to mislead or obfuscate. Its very acceptance as false reveals a collusion between the writer or the speaker and their audience – a collusion which precludes the audience from challenging what they hear. Bullshit is not just fashionable babble, it is a serious threat to democratic values and to meaningful public discourse.


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The Sociological Imagination

By C. Wright Mills

Book cover of The Sociological Imagination

Why this book?

This sociological classic is a stinging critique of much academic sociology as amounting to little more than verbose platitudes and cliches that hardly reach beyond common sense. But the book is also an eloquent advocacy of an often neglect academic virtue – imagination. Mills argues that social science can bring dazzling insights to the world we inhabit if it reaches beyond data and observations to identify underlying patterns and truths.


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Empty Labor: Idleness and Workplace Resistance

By Roland Paulsen

Book cover of Empty Labor: Idleness and Workplace Resistance

Why this book?

This is an old-fashioned sociology book that shows what can be done with some sociological imagination. Many of us do entirely meaningless work and get paid for it, and what is more, we know that we do. And yet, we pay a high price for it. How to avoid doing empty labour and rediscover the meaning of serious academic work.


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Triumph of Emptiness: Consumption, Higher Education, and Work Organization

By Mats Alvesson

Book cover of Triumph of Emptiness: Consumption, Higher Education, and Work Organization

Why this book?

This magisterial book punctures the grandiosity and narcissism of our times when we succumb to the illusions that image, hype, and empty talk create value, when everyone must claim to be cutting edge and a world leader. Alvesson demonstrates that behind such grandiosity lurks an emptiness of meaning, of value, and of imagination. His powerful critical discussions of modern consumption, higher education, professionalism, and leadership insinuate that our current malaise goes far deeper than the economic crisis in which we find ourselves. This is a book that shows how we can recover meaning in the work we do as social scientists.


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