Freedom and Control in Modern Society

By Morroe Berger; Theodore Abel | Go to book overview

6
SOCIAL STRUCTURE AND GOALS IN GROUP RELATIONS

MILTON M. GORDON

In the voluminous literature on racial and cultural group relations in American life, two basic related considerations appear to have received a minimum of attention, both in terms of theory and research. These considerations, in brief, are (1) the outlines of American social structure within which attitudinal and behavioral relationships between persons of varied ethnic backgrounds occur,1 and (2) the various possible goals in the area of reduction of group tensions articulated with reference to the kind of social structure they respectively imply.

The minimal attention given to these topics, both demanding close attention to social structure, can hardly be justified on theoretical grounds, since relevant description and causational theory alike logically demand their articulation. An intermediate explanation, which itself merits further investigation, is that societal analysis in the science of sociology has long been institution-centered, with secondary focus on social processes, and (apart from the elementary age and sex categories) tertiary and residual attention relegated to social structure. Interestingly enough, the beginnings of a change in this emphasis emerge not from ethnic group analysis, from which they might be expected, but from the community studies in social stratification. The yet prevailing dominance of the institutional approach, however, may be quickly ascertained from an examina-

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1
E. Franklin Frazier, in his Presidential Address before the American Sociological Society in December, 1948, called attention to this fundamental omission. See "Race Contacts and The Social Structure," American Sociological Review, Vol. 14, February, 1949, pp. 1-11.

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