Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings

By Charles Lemert | Go to book overview

fighting for a future of freedom for the Negro people of the US, the socialist society is not a hope, not what we may hope, but a compelling necessity. What he or any other Negro leader may say tomorrow, I do not know. But I have followed fairly closely the career of this young man, and I leave you with this very deeply based philosophical conception of political personality. He is far away out, in a very difficult position, and I am sure there are those in his own camp who are doubtful of the positions he is taking, but I believe his future and the future of the policies which he is now advocating does not depend upon him as an individual. It depends upon the actions and reactions of those surrounding him and, to a substantial degree, not only on what you who are listening to me may hope, but also on what you do.❖

Alvin W. Gouldner ( 1920-1980) grew up in the Bronx, where he fashioned himself as a street tough, a self-image he maintained through his life. Gouldner was also a brilliant student in the New York City schools and eventually at Columbia University, where, as a student of Robert K. Merton, he did his doctoral studies in sociology. His thesis was published in two parts, Wildcat Strike ( 1954) and Patterns of Industrial Bureaucracy ( 1954). The latter became a classic in industrial sociology. Though Gouldner would later become one of the world's foremost critical interpreters of Marxism, in his early career he expressed his radical views in a more Weberian form. In the mid-1960s, Gouldner began a major multivolume rethinking of social theory, beginning with Enter Plato ( 1965). He always challenged narrow boundaries. Some classicists hated him for daring to write on the Greeks without a knowledge of the ancient language. He was undaunted. The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology, the source of the selection, appeared in 1970. In many respects, it had an influence similar to Mills Sociological Imagination a decade earlier. Crisis was a kind of textbook for many young radicals pursuing careers in sociology as the 1960s came to an end. His ideas on reflexive sociology are clearly consistent with the New Left ideal of taking seriously the personal as well as the political. Gouldner other books include The Dialectic of Ideology and Technology ( 1976), The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class ( 1979), and The Two Marxisms ( 1980). Underneath a rough and abrasive manner, Gouldner was a sensitive soul. These differing personal attributes contributed to his remarkable willingness and ability to see the weakness and strength of his resources. Coming Crisis, like most of what he wrote thereafter, is an attempt to define a third force in social theory--part sociology, part Marxism; part academic, part political. With Gouldner, nothing was ever simple.


Toward a Reflexive Sociology

Alvin W. Gouldner ( 1970)

Sociologists are no more ready than other men to cast a cold eye on their own doings. No more than others are they ready, willing, or able to tell us what they are really doing and to distinguish this firmly from what they should be doing. Professional courtesy stifles intellectual curiosity; guild interests frown upon the washing of dirty linen in public; the teeth of piety bite the tongue of truth. Yet, first and fore-

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Excerpt from The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology ( New York: Basic Books, 1970), pp. 488-495. Reprinted by permission of Basic Books, a Member of the Perseus Books Group.

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