08 April 2013


From 'My Life in Sociology' by Nathan Glazer in (2012) 38 Annual Review of Sociology 1-16
Long before coming to Berkeley, I had given up, as a central interest, the discipline of sociology per se. I respected Merton's ambition to turn sociology into a science—he was well aware how far it was from being one. But it was not an ambition in which I participated. To me, sociology was always more of a humanistic discipline, as I wrote in an early article that was skeptical of the heralding of The American Soldier as a major advance in developing sociology as a science (Glazer 1949). Christopher Jencks once described sociology as “slow journalism,” and that too well described for me my approach to sociology. While sociology pursued its ambition to become more technical, more statistically advanced, more professional, more sophisticated theoretically—all worthy objectives—my own interests were more in the subjects and issues sociology dealt with than in the theory or methods it used in dealing with them. To me, sociology, like journalism, told stories, interesting and important stories. It was often my advice to graduate students, who so commonly chose thesis topics based on their lives and experiences and an interesting story they had to tell, to “tell the story!”, though I knew they also had to locate their stories within a theoretical framework. I wonder whether this was the best advice for them from the point of view of their future careers.