With the insight and clarity that mark all of Petersen's writings, Against the Stream brings together reflections of an unconventional demographer. Thirteen essays on various topics become a cohesive unit by virtue of the author's unique point of view, and the understanding of contemporary events he has gathered in his long mastery of demography is evident in this volume.
In a brief introduction the author points out that the viewpoints he expresses in the volume are unorthodox. He covers a variety of topics. Chapter 1 examines utopian thought, which Petersen notes usually gets good press that, in his view, is undeserved. Chapter 2 discusses planned communities and suburbanization, beginning with two famous utopias presented in books by Edward Bellamy and Ebenezer Howard, which had significant influence on American and British societies. Chapter 3 analyzes the perennial topic of how the balance between people and their sustenance will evolve. Chapter 4 critically explores Durkheim's analysis of suicide. Chapters 5 and 6 analyze the culture, language, and geographical positions of the individual countries of Belguim and Canada, providing a fresh outlook on these routine topics. Chapters 7 and 8 evaluate rebellious Berkeley students and adolescent student rebels in general as the juvenile delinquents that they often are. Chapter 9 discusses the anti-urban bias of the mainline American Churches. Chapter 10 traces the historical roots of Christian holidays, pointing out their significant links with prior religions. Chapter 11 critically examines the history of the English language as a guide to current usage. Chapters 12 and 13 survey two widely misunderstood demographic topics--the cause of death and obesity--and provide some stimulating new ideas.
This latest work by a distinguished demographer is a tightly knit, compact volume, a compendium of thought written in a nontechnical manner and about various subjects that will both interest the general reader and offer a different perspective of their disciplines to demographers and sociologists.
William Petersen, Robert Lazarus Professor Social Demography Emeritus at Ohio State University, is known throughout the profession as a leading demographer.