Sociology's Children of Affluence *
WILLIAM A. GAMSON
THE American Sociological Association staged a happening in San Francisco near the end of the summer of 1967. This happening was called the 62nd Annual Meeting and for those of you who missed it, I would like to invoke something of the mood. I suppose I realized that this convention was to be a bit different when, upon arrival, a friend informed me that he had been handed a leaflet in the Haight-Ashbury advising all hippies to get their tape recorders out and go down to the Hilton Hotel where they could "observe sociologists in their natural habitat."
This intelligence was followed by a string of events in a similar vein. A local rock group called, I believe, the Second Coming, took over the main ballroom at the Hilton to stage, for the benefit of the assembled sociologists, a light show and accompanying sound barrage. This affair began with a large group of observers but first a few and then a larger number began to dance until the remaining observers were relegated to the sidelines and replaced by participant nonobservers in the middle of the floor.
The next few days found a similar irreverence in the air. The corridors had a few sandaled, loose-shirted young men with convention name tags. There seemed to me more displays of emotion and expressive behavior than usual, more laughter and more intensity in the discussions in the sessions I attended. One author of a paper submitted a poem for his abstract. In a session on sociology and public policy, one of the speakers addressed the familiar issues of a "value-free" sociology. He argued, as one might predict from the topic, for an engaged sociology but his paper was more scholarly than polemic. What interested me most was an____________________