Radical Sociology

By J. David Colfax; Jack L. Roach | Go to book overview

Introduction—The Roots of
Radical Sociology

MAINSTREAM, contemporary sociology is largely the creation of coldwar liberals who, for the most part, have been content to observe and rationalize the operations of the American colossus from a position of privilege in the name of science. The emerging radical sociology rejects and condemns this posture and sees its responsibility as that of opposing such forces. Over the last few years interest in radical sociology has grown remarkably. Panels at national and regional professional meetings have been devoted to the subject, once neglected journals such as the Berkeley Journal of Sociology, Catalyst, and Ripsaw are showing new vitality and attracting a wider audience, a number of books with "radical" perspectives have been published, and the established journals of the profession have been giving increasing attention to the topic. 1

Several efforts to comprehend the appearance of politically radical sociology 2 have asserted that it resulted from strains and conditions in the universities and the profession. Such interpretations are for the most part parochial and ahistorical. They fail to recognize the part played in its emergence by the pervasive forces and contradictions which have characterized post—World War II America and which became sharply evident in the sixties. The radicalization of sociology has paralleled the radicalization of other academic disciplines, the human service professions, students, and blacks. To explain the phenomenon as if it were unique to sociology as a profession in a university setting is to fail to comprehend how radical sociology is related to conditions which characterize American society and its relationship to the various liberation movements throughout the world. To come to understand the origin, state, and prospects of radical sociology, it is important to review the extent to which American society has been demystified over the last decade and to assess the consequences of this new awareness for social

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