Producing Public Sociology: Contributions of Berkeley Faculty

Social science as public philosophy is public not just in the sense that its findings are publicly available or useful to some group or institution outside the scholarly world. It is public in that it seeks to engage the public in dialogue. It also seeks to engage the ‘community of the competent,’ the specialists and the experts, in dialogue, but it does not seek to stay within the boundaries of the specialist community while studying the rest of society from outside.

Robert Bellah et al., Habits of the Heart



This is the second edition of the Berkeley Electronic Book of Sociology, bringing together essays by each of our current permanent faculty, demonstrating our shared commitment to what we call “public sociology.” In the four years since the publication of the first edition in 2001 we are sad to report the retirement of Harry Edwards, Manuel Castells, Nancy Chodorow, Richard Ofshe, and Robert Cole while Gil Eyal left for Columbia University. At the same time we are delighted that six new faculty have joined us: Irene Bloemraad, John Lie, Sandra Smith, Cihan Tugal, Dylan Riley, and Marion Fourcade-Gourinchas. All of them have made distinctive contributions to public sociology in areas as diverse as immigration, race, religion, professions and social transformation.

We take as point of departure and as aspiration the vision of our colleague Robert Bellah, who sees public sociology as engaging the large social issues of the day – not in isolation but in dialogue with policy analysts and critical intellectuals. We believe that our vocation as a community of social scientists is to deploy our tools, methods, concepts and theories, developed for a specialist audience, in the construction of bridges to a broader public. And we do so with a view to enhancing and deepening debate about social trends and transformations. Exemplary in this genre of public sociology are books such as Habits of the Heart, by Robert Bellah, Richard Madsen, William Sullivan, Ann Swidler and Steven Tipton, one of the all-time best selling critical accounts of American society. Likewise, a recent collaboration by six Berkeley faculty – Claude Fischer, Mike Hout, Sam Lucas, Martin Sanchez-Jankowski, Ann Swidler, and Kim Voss – produced Inequality by Design, a sociological response to the bio-genetic arguments of Hernstein and Murray’s The Bell Curve. Other models of public sociology in action include Kristin Luker’s excursus into the politics of teenage pregnancy in Dubious Conceptions and Arlie Hochschild’s controversial accounts of changing relations between work and family in The Second Shift and The Time Bind. Moving to the global level, Manuel Castells’ trilogy, The Information Age, develops concepts and a framework that have entered into political vocabulary and public debate the world over. While you will find an abundance of such work by searching the individual web sites of our faculty, we have collected here articles that gives a flavor of the different ways we contribute to the enterprise of public sociology.

Our distinctive brand of sociology rests on an unusually diverse department, propelled by collaborative ventures, many of them borne in various inter-disciplinary institutes across the Berkeley campus. These include the Center for Slavic and East European Studies, the Institute of International Studies, the Institute for Industrial Relations, the Institute for the Study of Social Change, the Survey Research Center, the Institute of East Asian Studies, and the Center for Latin American Studies. There are as well poles of intellectual ferment that are mainly centered in sociology itself: the Center for Culture, Organizations and Politics; the Center for Working Families; the Center for Urban Ethnography; and the newly formed Center for the Study of Inequality. Add to these venues three sociological journals centered at Berkeley – the Berkeley Journal of Sociology, Ethnography and, for its first 4 years, the new magazine of the American Sociological Association, Contexts – and the multiple opportunities for intellectual dialogue and exchange are evident. Cross-fertilization and synergy are to be found not only among and within these centers but at the very heart of our vision of sociology. We believe that public and professional sociology are not opposed orientations, but rather that each thrives on the excitement of the other. Just as disciplinary training and equipment can aid the dissection of crucial public issues, so sensitivity to the pressing concerns of the day can invigorate sociology – its theories and its methods.

Yet we are committed to public sociology not just in our role as researchers, but also as teachers. We are proud of our outstanding undergraduate program which boasts distinguished teachers and dedicated teaching assistants who bring a sociological sense to thousands of undergraduates. Our mission is to turn, as C. Wright Mills would say, private concerns into public issues. At the same time our graduate program has produced some of the most distinguished sociologists of the discipline. For a taste of the research conducted by Berkeley PhDs you can look at our list of books that have been published from dissertations, a number of which have won major awards.

The quality of the sociology produced at Berkeley, by students and faculty alike, attests to its pluralistic and engaging intellectual culture. Indeed, our Janus-faced department – on one side public and on the other academic – has had a vibrant and at times vitriolic history. It began with the one-man department of Frederick J. Teggart – a maverick historian of conservative views whose social science aimed simultaneously against so-called muckraking Chicago sociology and the pseudo-science of grand evolutionary sociological theory. Teggart’s Department of Social Institutions was established in 1923, and he and other social scientists at Berkeley, such as the anthropologist A.L. Kroeber, were for many years opposed to the introduction of sociology. Nonetheless, following his retirement in 1940, the University moved to transform Teggart’s small department into a Department of Sociology. In the next several years, both Teggart and his colleague Margaret Hodgen worked vigorously to block this shift in departmental focus and nomenclature, and for a time they succeeded. In 1946, however, the department was finally renamed the Department of Sociology and Social Institutions. But controversy did not cease. After only a few months, the leadership of Teggart’s protégé Robert Nisbet’s was challenged, and the University installed philosopher Edward Strong, later to become a notorious Berkeley Chancellor during the Free Speech Movement, as interim chair. Strong chaired the department for the six years that followed. During this time he continued to elaborate the tradition of comparative historical sociology established by Teggart. With the assistance of Clark Kerr, then the Director of Berkeley’s new Institute of Industrial Relations, the department became the home of such shining intellectuals as Reinhard Bendix, Seymour Martin Lipset, Wolfram Eberhard, Ken Bock, Tamotsu Shibutani, Philip Selznick and, perhaps decisively, Herbert Blumer.

Berkeley’s second choice among the Chicago Sociologists – Edward Strong had tried unsuccessfully to recruit Everett C. Hughes to lead the department – Blumer came to Berkeley as chair in 1952, the same year that Kerr, himself as much a sociologist as an economist, became Berkeley’s Chancellor. Both men shared a commitment to building a first rate department. What followed was a stunning rise to sociological prominence, as Blumer and Kerr, Lipset and Bendix, worked to lay the foundations for Berkeley Sociology’s ascendancy. By the time of the Free Speech Movement began in 1964, Berkeley was already the top ranked sociology department in the United States, and one of the most respected departments in the world. The next decade saw much turmoil in the department, as protests exploded on the Berkeley campus, and movements for free speech and civil rights, and against the war in Vietnam, fueled debate and activity among both students and faculty. It was in this period that Berkeley’s Public Sociology received its baptism by fire. Through the 1960s and 1970s the department struggled to accommodate both a public sociology responsive to an audience beyond the academy and a professional sociology that was more focused on dialogue with other sociologists. As the warriors of the 1960s and 1970s departed, and were replaced by a new generation of faculty and students, Berkeley refined its simultaneous dedication to both public and professional sociology. And throughout many changes, the department has maintained its commitment to a diverse, plural sociology, one that deploys the instruments, concepts, and theories of sociology in the examination vital public issues.

We have arranged this collection of published and unpublished papers under six headings that reflect foci of intellectual energy within the department as well as our engagement with issues of the day.

• Varieties of Politics ranges from the record of the Clinton administration to the politics of immigrant incorporation, the construction of mythologies around teenage pregnancy; from the politics of sexuality within churches to the political construction of markets. This first section is capped off with reflections on politics and intellectuals.

• The Fate of Gender focuses on the commodification of intimate life, the male-female wage gap, and servitude in the domestic world of India. Here we also offer visions of gender within the administered life of the Soviet Union and the experience of masculinity in the boxing ring.

• Inequality and Diversity includes critical studies of IQ testing as a predictor of success, the effects of mobilizing social capital on wage inequality, the link between ethnic diversity and urban conflict, the effect of background on college entry, new interpretations of inter-racial relations, and finally the latest techniques for discerning underlying patterns of social mobility.

• Movements and Organizations looks at how movements are shaped by culture, the political challenge of Islamism in Turkey, the sources of the new social movement unionism, and how street gangs reflect the structure of the wider society within which they swim.

• Great Transformations focuses on the nature of twentieth century fascism, and on transitions to market and democracy in Nicaragua, Russia and China.

• Global Society examines the world-wide rise and importance of economics, the place of children in transnational migration, and the rise of counter-hegemonic movements to challenge multi-national agencies.

We invite you to select from the sampling of articles below – articles that express our commitment to expand the frontiers of sociology while addressing pressing social problems of the new century. We are planning a further volume of Berkeley classics, one that will trace the origins of our distinctive sociology. Finally, we should like to thank Jodi York and David Nasitir for their able and imaginative assistance in putting this collection together.

Michael Burawoy
Jonathan VanAntwerpen
January 17, 2005

CONTENTS