Tim Delaney
  • Review
By – April 2, 2012

Tim Delaney’s book looks at soci­ol­o­gy through the lens of Sein­feld, one of the most pop­u­lar sit­u­a­tion come­dies ever broadcast. 

Delaney begins and ends his book with the astute obser­va­tion that though Sein­feld famous­ly described itself as a show about noth­ing,” in fact it was about every­thing. He proves this the­sis by show­ing the vast range of top­ics that the pro­gram actu­al­ly dealt with. The book is orga­nized into top­ic chap­ters that treat major issues of soci­ol­o­gy — social deviance, reli­gion, crime and social con­trol, etc. Each begins with a brief overview of soci­o­log­i­cal the­o­ry on the top­ic, fol­lowed by an exten­sive series of illus­tra­tive inci­dents drawn from Seinfeld’s 180 episodes. 

As enter­tain­ing as it gen­er­al­ly is, Delaney’s analy­sis is too often super­fi­cial. In a study of how Sein­feld is informed by soci­ol­o­gy, we would expect a more extend­ed treat­ment of what made so much of the series so tren­chant­ly fun­ny: its explo­ration of the anx­i­ety-induc­ing sus­pi­cion that while there are pre­vail­ing norms in con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can soci­ety, they are vir­tu­al­ly impos­si­ble to define with cer­tain­ty, so that even the most triv­ial behav­iors are laden with poten­tial­ly treach­er­ous mys­tery. For exam­ple, as one episode of Sein­feld asks, is eat­ing a can­dy bar with a knife and fork the idio­syn­crasy of a lone eccen­tric, or is it in fact a true mark­er of social sta­tus, so that ques­tion­ing or laugh­ing at it would mark one as hope­less­ly déclassé?

Despite its lim­i­ta­tions, how­ev­er, Seinol­o­gy will instruct many who know noth­ing of soci­ol­o­gy and will delight many who know much about Sein­feld and find them­selves thirst­ing for more. 

Bar­bara Bietz is a free­lance writer and children’s book review­er. She is cur­rent­ly a mem­ber of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Com­mit­tee. Bar­bara is the author of the mid­dle grade book, Like a Mac­cabee. She has a blog ded­i­cat­ed to Jew­ish books for chil­dren at www​.Bar​baraB​Book​Blog​.Blogspot​.com.

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