Arguing that death is the central force shaping our social life and order, Michael Kearl draws on a wide variety of disciplines to provide a broad sociological perspective on the interrelationships of life and death. He shows how death contributes to social change, and how the meanings of death are generated to serve social functions. Working from a social as well as a psychological perspective, Kearl analyses traditional topics, including ageing, suicide, grief, and medical ethics. He also examines current issues such as the impact of the AIDS epidemic on social trust, governments' use of death in symbolism, the business of death and dying, the political economy of doomsday weaponry, and death in popular culture.
'Michael Kearl's book should inject much-needed impetus to such academic reflection ... there is much of value in this textbook ... Kearl uses all the media available to him to lend substance to his arguments. Indeed it is this richness, together with the breadth of his inquiries, that lies at the heart of the text's strength ... written clearly and, most importantly, by someone who has obviously tried to convey many of the ideas verbally in classes and seminars. It is, consequently, both stimulating and readable.' Dr Tim Newburn, National Institute for Social Work, London, BJGC, Volume 21, No. 1, January 1993