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This article interrogates the idea of a classic, locating its significance in sociology in terms of its understanding in far-ranging fields of human inquiry and exploration, particularly philosophy, art, and literature. It explores the question: Why do “classics” remain important whenever social scientists, novices or veterans, reconsider their discipline’s history and likely future?
Alan Sica is a Professor of Sociology at Pennsylvania State University, where he is the Founder and Director of the Social Thought Program. He has served as Editor of Contemporary Sociology and Chair of the American Sociological Association’s Theory Section. He is the recipient of the ASA’s History of Sociology Section’s Distinguished Achievement Award. His books include Weber, Irrationality, and Social Order (1988), What Is Social Theory? The Philosophical Debates (1998), and The Disobedient Generation: Social Theorists in the Sixties (2005).
Few issues are more central to understanding an ancient people than how they were organised politically, a topic that touches on virtually every aspect of their social, cultural, and economic life. Configurations of power are the critical frameworks within which identities, relationships, and events are formed, understood, and function both within communities and in their interactions with others. This was no less true for the ancient Maya, who occupied the Yucatan Peninsula and adjacent highlands to the south, an area now divided between the nations of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and the western extremities of Honduras and El Salvador (Map 1; see also Maps 2–4) – today home to millions of their descendants.
The Classic Maya have long presented scholars with vexing problems. One of the longest running and most contested of these, and the source of deeply polarized interpretations, has been their political organization. Using recently deciphered inscriptions and fresh archaeological finds, Simon Martin argues that this particular debate can be laid to rest. He offers a comprehensive re-analysis of the issue in an effort to answer a simple question: how did a multitude of small kingdoms survive for some six hundred years without being subsumed within larger states or empires? Using previously unexploited comparative and theoretical approaches, Martin suggests mechanisms that maintained a 'dynamic equilibrium' within a system best understood not as an array of individual polities but an interactive whole. With its rebirth as text-backed historical archaeology, Maya studies has entered a new phase, one capable of building a political anthropology as robust as any other we have for the ancient world.
Ethnohistorical and ethnographic observations from around the world indicate that projectiles were often made differently for warfare and hunting. Using experiential archaeology and analysis of a thousand years’ worth of data from the middle Gila River in Arizona, the authors argue that side notched arrow points were produced for hunting large animals and were designed to be retrieved and reused, while unnotched points were intended for single use and for another purpose: to kill people. The data suggests furthermore that the region witnessed a steady increase in levels of violence during the period under study.
Travellers naturally prefer to use the most passable routes and establish staging points on the way. Cost surface analysis predicts the easiest routes and viewshed analysis the territory visible from a staging point or destination. Applying these GIS techniques to the Buenavista Valley Corridor, our authors write a history of travel and exchange that vividly reflects the rivalry of two polities and the rise and fall of their nodal settlements.
The authors use a social network analysis to map the changing patterns of obsidian supply among the Maya during the period of Classic to Postclassic transition. The quantity of obsidian received from different sources was calculated for 121 sites and the network analysis showed how the relative abundance of material from different sources shifted over time. A shift from inland to coastal supply routes appears to have contributed to the collapse of inland Maya urban centres. The methods employed clearly have a high potential to reveal changing economic networks in cases of major societal transitions elsewhere in the world.
Stephen Neill's Anglicanism has been the classic book on Anglican history and tradition for a generation. Books which become classics endure because they exhibit timeless features. Neill's Anglicanism succeeds because he delineates core features of the church's tradition which originated in English circumstances and spread beyond them. The book's endurance also reflects its comprehensive narrative and objectivity. For Neill English precedent left an enduring mark without enshrining English authority. Anglicanism's genius has been its capacity to embrace local variations of expression. Yet Neill foresaw the tensions inherent in post-colonial Anglicanism. The irony of the church's adaptability and growth was the resulting strain on its consensual forms that began in his lifetime. Local variety would extend to a degree that would erode over-arching consensus and strain the structures which would enforce it, as Neill saw plainly.
In 1717, Blair first described pyloric stenosis based on autopsy findings. It was not until 1887 that Hirschsprung described the clinical picture and pathology of pyloric stenosis. Ninety years later, Teele and Smith described the use of ultrasonography to diagnosis pyloric stenosis. Traditionally, this diagnosis has been based on the clinical findings of projectile nonbilious vomiting, the palpation of a pyloric tumour (or “olive”), and the presence of classic metabolic disturbances. Currently, ultrasonography is regarded as the diagnostic test of choice for an infant presenting with nonbilious emesis in which an “olive” is not palpated.
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