||While other academic disciplines claim a focus around specific subject matter, sociologists think of their field as an approach to understanding the often invisible forces and social contexts that shape the way people conduct their lives. How these forces and contexts are structured is central to sociology. But how do sociologists analyze these invisible structures? This book contributes to our understanding by bringing together a remarkable set of master essays about modern sociology written by some of the leading figures of the field. Each author describes a vision of sociological inquiry or offers an example of research that illustrates approaches and problems encountered in doing sociological work. The collection is rounded out with a prologue by Kai Erikson, an epilogue by Paul DiMaggio, and an extraordinary autobiographical essay by Robert K. Merton. The book is introduced by its editor as a set of reflections, a gathering of visions. But the range of topics and the variety of authors represented make it a valuable introduction to sociology as a discipline and as a way of thinking.