The Postwar Boom

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


At the end of the Second World War, the stage was set for a new generational change, influenced in part by new sources of funding and a shift in power to private universities, notably Harvard and Columbia. This led to a division: the public universities of the Midwest continued their own heavily statistical traditions, but were outshone by the programs for the development of sociology being promoted at Harvard and Columbia by Parsons, Merton, and Lazarsfeld. Their programs had allied themselves to the idea of behavioral science. Yet the program was a failure, and broke down as a result of the student revolt of the late 1960s and early 1970s.


behavioral science Paul Lazarsfeld Robert K. Merton student revolt Talcott Parsons 


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  1. 1.
    A comparable, even more exclusive body, with parallel aims, was created in psychology; this was led by S. S. Stevens. In both cases the situation was similar: a larger discipline with its own institutional needs and sources of students and support and its intellectual elite had diverged from one another, leading to both organizational differentiation and conflict. A similar movement developed in psychology in the 1990s, when many psychologists felt that the applied and popular role of psychology had pushed aside its scientific aims.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ironically, Sorokin was among the most successful ‘public sociologists’ in history. His wartime writings, such as Man and Society in Calamity (1942) and Crisis of Our Age (1941), were international bestsellers that went through many editions and continued to influence sociology outside of the US until the 1960s (Marotta and Gregor, 1961, p. 221; Pereyra, 2005, p. 38).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    A typical example of sociology of the period was the study done for the army of its own desegregation (Bogart, 1969, p. 11). The study, conducted in the early 1950s, combined interviews and measures of attitudes, and presented simple statistical analysis. The results contradicted some popularly held beliefs, were meaningful in providing an empirical basis for a big picture of an important social phenomenon, and used little ‘theory’. The project, which employed a dozen young sociologists, owed nothing to Merton, Parsons, or Lazarsfeld, but was an incremental application of what had been routinely done for decades, plus attitude scaling.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    This was one source of the bitter friction between C. Wright Mills and Merton and Lazarsfeld (Katz, 2006, pp. 205–6, 308; Pooley, 2006).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Stephen Turner 2014

Authors and Affiliations

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

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