June 26, 2003

A post by Henry Farrell reminds me of a question: When at your local Borders Bookstore, is it worse to be a philosopher and find the Metaphysics section stocked mostly with books by David Icke, or a sociologist and find the Sociology section stocked with books by Ann Coulter? There’s not much to choose. My view is that it’s the latter because Icke is insane but not actually evil. He can also be very funny. Liberals may be terrible, but they can’t touch twelve-foot tall shape-shifting alien lizards who run the world. And to think this man once played in goal for Coventry City.

I imagine people from other fields have similar experiences in bookshops. Sean Hannity dominates the Political Science section. OJ Simpson (soon Laci Peterson) trial books and do-it-yourself divorce kits shove aside Blackstone’s Commentaries on the half-shelf of law books. Jack Welch and Jesus CEO trample all over those slim MIT Press volumes by clever young economists.

Come to think of it, Economics is often the most poorly-served of the social sciences on the shelves of the big stores in terms of volume of titles for sale, which is odd. The Business and Investing section drowns it out, I suppose. Political Science seems to do best.

If my University bookstore was any good I wouldn’t have to hit the big stores, but its recent expansion into a space three times larger than the old one seems to have been designed to give the sports merchandise more room to breathe.

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I am Associate Professor of Sociology at Duke University. I’m affiliated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Markets and Management Studies program, and the Duke Network Analysis Center.



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