Getting Sociology Right: A Half-Century of Reflections

Getting Sociology Right: A Half-Century of Reflections

Getting Sociology Right: A Half-Century of Reflections

Getting Sociology Right: A Half-Century of Reflections

Synopsis

Neil J. Smelser, one of the most important and influential American sociologists, traces the discipline of sociology from 1969 to the early twenty-first century in Getting Sociology Right: A Half-Century of Reflections. Examining sociology as a vocation and building on the work of Talcott Parsons, Smelser discusses his views on the discipline of sociology and shows how his perspective of the field evolved in the postwar era.

Excerpt

Over a period of nearly four decades covering most of my professional career (1967–2005) I wrote a dozen-plus essays on the nature, status, methodology, problems, current situation, and future of the academic discipline of sociology. The topics of these essays were very different from one another and they were published in the greatest mix of accessible and inaccessible places. Yet they all had one characteristic in common: I initiated none of them. Every essay was written at the behest of an organizing committee of a scholarly meeting, an editor of a journal, or the reigning president of the American Sociological Association for presentation in a symposium. In every case a topic was assigned, but I was given freedom to develop that topic as I chose.

These circumstances do not bode well if one is searching for a systematic pattern in those essays. After all, they were externally initiated at different times, for different occasions, by different people with different agendas on their mind, and in different environments. The essays stimulated varying levels of interest and response at the time of delivery and publication, but for a long time they have resided as discrete and barely visible items in my formal bibliography, which almost nobody sees, much less reads.

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