Maxwell School, Syracuse University

J. Milton Yinger


Major Social Issues: A Multidisciplinary View
J. Milton Yinger and Stephen J. Cutler, editors
New York: Free Press, 1978


The study of human behavior is carried out in several different disciplines which, though they converge on numerous issues, are separated by problems of specialization, particular theoretical interests, and diverse methods and vocabularies.  Such divisions have made it difficult for social scientists to share perspectives, and even to debate differences. 

Major Social Issues:  A Multidisciplinary View brings together some of the most distinguished social scientists of our day, thirty-six authorities from different fields.  In these pages, they present a number of different approaches to critical issues of common concern, providing the basis for a synthesis of social scientific ideas. 

The topics discussed here share two characteristics:  they are currently the subject of active research in two or more disciplines (of the thirty essays, fourteen are by sociologists and sixteen are by scholars from the fields of economics, psychology, anthropology, history, philosophy, law, and biology); and they are of vital concern not only to scholars but to the public at large.  As the editors put it, these problems are “the stuff of headlines as well as of the professional journals.” 

Ten topics are covered: 

  1. Competing models of multiethnic and multiracial societies.

  2. The effectiveness of public programs dealing with poverty and civil rights.

  3. The explanation and control of crime.

  4. The impact of contemporary trends in the family on socialization.

  5. The quality of life:  population, resources, and community design.

  6. Fertility.

  7. The social sciences and public policy.

  8. Attitudes and behavior.

  9. The social consequences of powerlessness.

  10. Social change:  modernity and counter-modernity.


Offering divergent, often competing, viewpoints on current social problems, joining some of the most notable scholars in their fields, advancing our understanding of important issues in a holistic manner, Major Social Issues is a significant contribution both to the social sciences and to public policy.  Such a sharing of ideas is an all-too-rare event among today’s scholars. 



“This is … one of those rare books whose title indicates accurately what it is about.  It does indeed deal with a variety of social issues; its approach is indeed multidisciplinary….  This may not be an easy book to use, with its three to five essays per topic.  But it certainly is a book easy to enjoy and to find stimulating.  One hopes we still have time for that…. Yinger’s concluding essay on “Counter Cultures and Social Change” (his presidential address) is both academically learned, and humanistically cultured.  And, like most of the book, it is well-written.”  Henry A. Landsberger, Social Forces, June 1980, pp. 1345-1347. 


Trustee Professor of Public Administration and Economics