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Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2010
The card-carrying sociologist's first reaction to Christian Smith's hefty new book might well be to scratch her head in bewilderment at the title. "What is a person?" she might ask. "What an odd question." The more usual one in sociology is: "What is agency?"--though most sociologists pose it more as an afterthought, since it is "structure" that always looms largest. In changing the question, Smith is seeking to alter the terms of debate in sociology and to suggest a new way of resolving it. He draws on three sets of intellectual resources: personalism, critical realism, and "anti-scientistic phenomenology."
More a movement than a doctrine, personalism in its various forms--religious and secular, Jewish and Catholic--initially arises as a defensive counter-reaction to liberal individualism …