Bringing The People (Magazine) Back In

The American tabloid People Weekly was first published in 1974. Mia Farrow, who was starring as Daisy Buchanan in the film The Great Gatsby at the time, was its first cover girl, gazing vacantly out into the world, her hair all done up in 1920s curls instead of the short crop that, in the late 1950s, made her a famous gamine. This was nearly eighty years after Emile Dukheim’s Les Règles De La Méthode Sociologique was first published.

Still, like so many of the practical and narrative sociologies, which came before it, the work of statistical societies and rhetoricians for example, or the work of novelists and poets, People Weekly had all the markings of a classic sociological work.

You can tell by just looking at the cover. It offered analyses of modern social problems, (like the everyday struggles of the modern, nuclear family or the persistent sorrow of the modern, everyday wife), while at the same time celebrating all of the great promise of the modern American dream (Palm Beach Whirl, The Parties, Pets and Personalities or springtime fashion that lets you find your true inner self). It attempted to explain how these problems affected us in both big ways and small (unjust arrests made in Russia or how a fourth marriage can really work) and offered evidence and proof to its well-reasoned claims.

It was, you could say, canonically perfect, right down to its masthead and its celebration of fame, for unlike Les Règles, People Weekly magazine was and continues to be a sociological work where the bodies out of which it is made are clearly acknowledged by its name.

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