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WIU Sociology Professor Releases Book Titled “Revolution and Witchcraft: The Code of Ideology in Unsettled Times"

April 5, 2023

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MACOMB, IL - - Western Illinois University Sociology Associate Professor Gordon C. Chang has written and released "Revolution and Witchcraft: The Code of Ideology in Unsettled Times," which examines how and why people misuse concepts. The work demonstrates how thinking errors of various sizes, rather than just the most obvious and blatant ones, may have far-reaching effects on society.

"I am always interested in how and why people think, especially when there are crevices and cracks in their ideas and how their thinking practices, in turn, affect others and themselves," said Chang. "Even ordinary people can develop extreme thoughts without knowing that they are doing so, and even knowledge authorities or whole societies can be extremely wrong. Being a sociology of knowledge scholar, this project allows me to assemble a theoretical model using the many pieces of insights I have learned since I began my academic career."

The book, which was published by Palgrave Macmillan Cham this year, analyzes how social media has created echo chambers that allow misinformation to spread in a way that's impossible to control.

"This book proposes the concept of ‘idea systems' as a way to describe how ideas link together in chains, and how chains of ideas codify social groups through the construction and deployment of different types of evidence," Chang said. "Borrowing from a range of disciplines, the book introduces a basic set of tools and frameworks for readers to comprehend the deep principles behind the operation of whole idea systems. Their holistic, microscopic, and dynamic dimensions are emphasized throughout. This book utilizes three cases—Europe's witch hunts, the Mao Zedong-era ‘revolutions,' and the early campaign of the U.S. War on Terror—to demonstrate how idea systems truly work within the complex contexts of human societies. Each case is associated with an idea system that has a distinct, ornate structure with different contents. Each case highlights codification processes that carry unique relevance for our current world. Each case shows how actual, creative people—as living, biographical subjects—can push the potentials of idea systems to their limits, often ultimately resulting in significant societal misfortunes."

Chang is actively working on conference presentations surrounding themes mentioned in his book. The menu of topics includes cognitive errors, gestalt patterns in ideas and other modes of codification beyond the two developed in the book.

Chang has taught at WIU for more than 12 years. In addition to the focus of the book, he teaches sociological theory courses, and SOC 272 "Individual and Society," which is an introduction to symbolic interactionist social psychology.

To access the open book and materials, visit For more information on the book, contact Chang at

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