problem by the death of a character. 22 Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities, portrays in vivid detail the social life of the poor in contrast with the better-off classes of London and Paris during the French Revolution. The problem of the unequal distribution of wealth and opportunity in those cities was resolved in favor of a changed social structure. Instead, the poor found ways to escape their unfortunate circumstances.
In America the readiness of the social sciences to abandon a serious critique of the veracity of its theory led to important mistakes in interpretations of group actions. The discipline had little to offer to the general public, it seemed, for it was not speaking to the problems the public confronted. It ignored data that did not accord with its biases. Interpretations that seemed to support the status quo were endorsed more freely probably because the social scientists themselves had paradigms of statics in their heads and in their training. It was very difficult to internalize a sociology of dynamics by studying the European masters, as the majority of sociologists had to do during their advanced degree training.
Nowhere was European sociology found to be more wrong than in regard to race relations. The idea that even dynamic American race relations were caste relations was the prevailing myth for long years. The stage for that kind of thought had been set by the European scholar Gunnar Myrdal. Although Myrdal was severely criticized by Oliver C. Cox, the hold of caste upon American sociology would not be displaced. Not even the conflict present in the slave system, nor that which erupted during World War I and afterward, nor the social movements aimed at removing inequities in the system made much impact on those scholars whose training was grounded in the statics of caste relations.
Not only did logic and philosophy refute Myrdal but so did the data themselves. The movement for civil rights, begun even before the 1960s, had been scoring successes at various places in the country. By 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, it got under way in a very serious fashion under the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. Despite the massive change taking place in America, social science held stolidly to caste and class thought, trying to fit the data of dynamics into the static molds handed out by European social science.
Other movements were in place at the same time as that for black civil rights. The women's liberation movement sought to redress the relatively powerless position women held as a result of male dominance. Although sociology had not seen women as a lower caste, clearly they had been subordinate in most general and productive areas of life. In many ways they shared the position reserved for lower-caste members, such as blacks. Throughout American society revolutions in human relations were occurring while sociology continued to try to explain the change by using concepts bequeathed by European social science.
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Publication information: Book title: Toward an American Sociology:Questioning the European Construct. Contributors: Gordon D. Morgan - Author. Publisher: Praeger Publishers. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 33.
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