By Peter L. Berger
Prometheus Books, $26.00, 264 pages
Adventures of an Accidental Sociologist by Peter L. Berger is a rocky ride over a gold strewn wandering road. It is not an autobiography, as such, but a recounting of his journeys and associations as a sociologist beginning with the New School for Social Research in 1949. Mr. Berger has traveled over most of the world: from Prague, to Argentina, from China to Africa, doing what a sociologist does and publishing fifteen books as author or co-author. As of 2009, he is a senior research fellow at CURA: Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs.
The book is a difficult read because it covers a lifetime of travels and contacts in a very busy life and doesn’t provide a straight narrative that’s easy to grasp. In addition, sociology as a discipline varies from obscure imaginings with seemingly no real world connections, to insights with startling clarity i.e. from Schwenkfeld studies to an observation by Bernard Lewis. Astronomy came out of astrology, Chemistry came out of alchemy. I am tempted to ask: What might come out of sociology?
As I said, the book is a rough ride over a varied landscape but there are nuggets to be found. If you’re interested in the life and interests of a prominent sociologist, it’s worth the effort.
Reviewed by Norman West