Sociology Today; Problems and Prospects

By Robert K. Merton; Leonard Broom et al. | Go to book overview

20
The Study of Occupations

EVERETT CHERRINGTON HUGHES University of Chicago

A ny occupation in which people make a living may be studied sociologically. Many have been so studied in recent years, especially those which are undergoing changes in techniques and social organization and in their social and economic standing. Sometimes the study is instigated by those in the occupation; sometimes by people not in it but affected by it. The motive may be immediate practical advantage; it may be greater understanding and general social advantage. Sociology has much to gain from such studies, provided that those who undertake them make and keep a sociological bargain with those who support them and those who allow themselves to be studied. The maximal gain can be reached, however, only when the sociologist keeps clearly in mind his ulterior goal of learning more about social processes in general.

In the following pages, we are frankly preoccupied with this ulterior goal of learning about the nature of society itself from the study of occupations.


The Labor Force

Modern industrial and urban societies and economies, no matter what the political systems under which they operate, are characterized by a wholesale mobilization of people away from traditional and

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