The Near-Death Experience and Its Consequences

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


The collapse in demand for sociology degrees had many consequences. With the collapse in enrollments sociologists had to cater to student preferences. Elite departments, which were not dependent on undergraduate enrollments, were partly immune from these pressures, but throughout the discipline and in the American Sociological Association, tolerance was practiced. This in turn led to a sense of fragmentation as new ways of doing sociology became tolerated. Nevertheless, the caste system, a labor cartel of elite departments, strengthened, and the culture of elite sociology, centered on its top journals, diverged from the rest of sociology. The hig- rejection rates of these journals promoted the development of groupuscules or small bodies of researchers who could review one another favorably.


American Sociological Association caste system elite sociology sociology enrollments Washington University Sociology 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    One of the demands of student radicals during the 1960s was the abolition of requirements (Brown, 1988, p. 38).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The leadership of the ASA is not ‘representative’ of American sociology. It consists of a group of friends, usually connected with one another for decades, normally since graduate school, and is exclusive. Its insiders allocate positions, responsibilities, and power to one another. Even being allowed to chair a session on the regular ASA program, as distinct from the section program, requires being connected to this group–yet even graduate students with the right connections can be chosen. As we will see, however, women, who now dominate the offices of the association, have partly broken down some of the status barriers to inclusion.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    The dimensions of the change in control of the ASA are examined in Simpson and Simpson (2001). They comment that ‘[p]aradoxically, the democratization of governance and the diversification of association functions do not appear to have promoted the increase in participation that was intended. Proportionately fewer members vote, and sociologists in non-elite settings are less likely to publish in their premier journal, than when the Association was more elitist’ (p. 287). Democratization, however, was never the goal, as was evident from the start, when the roundtables were evicted from their meeting place in New Orleans: control and power was the goal. The point about what they call ‘functional differentiation’, however, is correct: disciplinary elites were willing to allow this to occur, as long as they controlled the journals.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    This phenomenon was first noticed by Mullins (1973).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    It should be pointed out that other disciplines similar to sociology were undergoing similar fragmentation during the same period, in part for related reasons. In anthropology, for example, Eric Wolf (1980, p. E.9) was interviewed on the eve of the 1980 AAA meetings in the New York Times, and described the discipline as having a practice of ‘Divide and Subdivide’.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Stephen Turner 2014

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations