The Revolution of the 1920s and the Interwar Years

  • Stephen Turner
Part of the Sociology Transformed book series (SOTR)


As career paths in academic life began to be open to sociology Ph.D.s in the 1920s, the discipline began to change. Reformist topics still predominated, but the mix of topics gradually changed, and began to reflect such concerns as measurement. The Rockefeller philanthropies, whose aims were ultimately reformist, stressed the need for more realistic studies and objective knowledge, an emphasis that conflicted with the reformers’ notion that enough was known and what was needed was public education. But the issues over objectivity remained in flux, and at the end of the 1930s Robert Lynd published an influential attack on this model of sociology, Knowledge for What?, which called for research to be assessed and performed for immediate social impact.


Chicago Area Project Clifford Shaw objectivity Robert Lynd W. F. Ogburn 


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  1. 1.
    Robert W. DeForest to John Glenn, 23 April 1920, Russell Sage Foundation Papers, Box 4, Folder 31, Rockefeller Archives Center, Pocantico Hills, North Tarrytown, NY; John Glenn to Robert W. DeForest, 27 April 1920, Russell Sage Foundation Papers, Box 4, Folder 31, Rockefeller Archives Center.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Much of this work was oriented to the public good and to personal well-being (see Turner, 2013).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    A taste of Park’s ideas is captured in his comment, recorded by Theodore K. Noss, that ‘the greatest damage to the city of Chicago was not the product of corrupt politicians of criminals but of women reformers’. When he got a particularly aggressive one in class, he brought in a book by William James and ‘began reading “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings” … It was about our failure to understand the inner world of the people around us’ (quoted in Raushenbush, 1979, p. 97).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Oliver Cromwell Cox, the great polemicist of the leading Black sociological thinkers, writing on these issues in the 1940s, argued that racial prejudice was co-eval with and a product of capitalism, and nothing more than a form of proletarianization. Cox (1948) rejected both the standard White views on race and the idea that Southern race relations were caste-like–Myrdal’s casting of the problem of prejudice in moral terms rather than in terms of capitalist exploitation. On a practical note, this led Cox to assimilationism and the denial of difference, a stance that later largely excluded him from the canon of Black studies.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Stephen Turner 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Turner
    • 1
  1. 1.University of South FloridaUS

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