On today’s program, Vince speaks with Charles Derber, who is a professor of sociology at Boston College.
Derber is a prolific writer. Derber’s work falls into three major categories. One is a critique of individualism and American culture. In 2000, Oxford University Press printed a 20th year commemorative edition of ‘The Pursuit of Attention’, marking its status as a classic sociological work. It focuses on ego-centeredness and ‘conversational narcissism’ in everyday life as structured by class, gender and America’s individualistic culture. Derber’s book, ‘The Wilding of America’, in its fifth edition, is a widely used text in American sociology. It offers a sharp critique of the American Dream and the crisis of hyper-individualism.
Derber is known as a public sociologist who writes for general audiences, offering not only sociological critiques but alternative visions. He appears frequently on talk shows, has written opinion pieces for media including the International Herald Tribune, the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, Newsday and Tikkun, and is a regular contributor to Cognoscenti, the opinion page of WBUR, Boston’s NPR station. He is one of the most prominent contemporary exemplars of the sociological imagination as championed by C. Wright Mills, and, like Mills, he believes in the importance of melding critical scholarship with social justice activism. Derber has long been active in the peace, environmental and labor movements, from his 1960s work to register African-American voters in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and his opposition to the Vietnam War to current movements such as Occupy and the struggle to prevent climate change and transform global corporate capitalism into a robust economic and political democracy.