Freedom and Control in Modern Society

By Morroe Berger; Theodore Abel | Go to book overview

13
ROBERT M. MACIVER'S CONTRIBUTIONS TO SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY

HARRY ALPERT

Lincoln Steffens reports that he once asked Einstein in Berlin how he had been able to make great discoveries. "How did you ever do it, I exclaimed, and he, understanding and smiling gave the answer. 'By challenging an axiom.'"1 If a latter-day Lincoln Steffens were to ask Robert MacIver how he has been able to make his contributions to sociology, an appropriate reply would be: by drawing a distinction. The like and the common, state and society, community and association, interest and attitudes, corporate class consciousness and competitive class consciousness, the inner and the outer, culture and civilization, the modes of the question why, the varieties of social causation (precipitant, incentive, responsible agent, etc.), the two types of prejudice (socially rooted and personality rooted), balances and circles, evolution and progress--this is but a partial listing of the numerous conceptual clarifications for which sociologists are deeply indebted to Robert MacIver. Add to this list such conceptual tools as social image, dynamic assessment, and multi-group society, and one has, indeed, an impressive array of solid ideas upon which to erect a systematic sociology.

MacIver's contributions to sociology may be viewed as fourfold. First, as just indicated, he has systematically developed and fruitfully explored an impressive network of fundamental sociological concepts. Secondly, he has helped stem the tide of excessive positiv-

____________________
1
Lincoln Steffens, The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens ( New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1931), Vol. II, p. 816.

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