The Crisis of the 1970s and Its Long-Term Consequences

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


The crisis of the 1970s was in the first place a crisis of declining enrollments that created a crisis of employment for new Ph.D.s. Sociologists had been associated with, and promoted, Lyndon Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ welfare efforts, and when these came to be discredited, condemned sociology as a brand. A bitter generational conflict ensued between young male sociologists, hostile to the generation of Merton and Parsons students, and this generation, which occupied positions of power in a situation of rapid decline. The demise of the idea of an overarching consensual theoretical framework, and the emergence of a practical kind of expertise represented by Coleman’s studies, led to a bifurcation between expertise and sociology as’ science’.


Daniel Patrick Moynihan James Coleman Lewis Coser Moynihan Report Partialling Robert Merton 


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  1. 1.
    This influence continued in the Nixon administration, which appointed Daniel Patrick Moynihan as Nixon’s domestic policy adviser, and later counselor to the president. As Seymour Martin Lipset (1998) notes, ‘[D]ue in part to his role as advisor … the [Nixon] administration turned out to be, in economic terms, one of the most liberal the United States ever had’ (p. 32). Nixon proposed such things as minimum income rights and a national health care policy: both were rejected by the Democrats on the grounds that they should be more generous, and in the hope that they would be able to gain power and enact policies more to their liking. In any event, they got neither minimum incomes nor health care guarantees. Ted Kennedy, the principal obstacle to the health care compromise offered by Nixon, later regretted his failure to accept it.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Robert K. Merton to Ms. Natira McDermott, 23–24 July 1994. R. K. Merton papers, Box 335, Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See Solovey (2013).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Moynihan (1965) himself had evaded the issue of race and crime. He of course knew that delinquency, crime, and incarceration rates, for example, were exceptionally high for this population, and thoroughly confounded with the other ‘pathologies’; he briefly addressed the fact in a section entitled ‘The Tangle of Pathology’. But he simply asserts one direction of causality, treating the ‘disastrous delinquency and crime rate’ as a ‘predictable outcome’ of ‘poverty, failure, and isolation’ rather than treating crime itself as a cause with its own predictable outcomes (p. 38).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Stephen Turner 2014

Authors and Affiliations

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

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