The Elite and Its Power

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


Graduate students are highly aware of the career consequences of first appointments and the importance of publications in the American Sociological Review and the American Journal of Sociology. Getting an elite appointment is nevertheless a lottery: only about one in twenty of the graduates in top-twenty departments get first appointments at this level. This produces an intense competition and strong pressure to conform. This system seems impervious to change, because of its association with the ASR/AJS journal system. There is nevertheless considerable debate over whether this hierarchy reflects genuine merit, and doubt about the kind of sociology that prospers under it.


academic rankings Ivy League MOOCs prestige hierarchies public and private universities 


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  1. 1.
    US News and World Report is a former news magazine that found that its rankings of academic programs were the financially viable part of its business and continues to produce this influential ranking.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    As I have argued at length elsewhere (Turner, [2002] 2014a), the activity of what I call ‘bonding’, the certification of scientific merit by others, is central to science as a whole. One form of this bonding is approval by an editorial process; another is appointment to an elite university. But this is risky: construct the criteria for bonding too narrowly and one risks stifling innovation.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Michèle Lamont (2004) surveyed top sociology departments in 2004 to see how theory was taught, and found that theorists’ theory was denigrated, and the teaching of theory was done by people who applied it rather than produced it.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Stephen Turner 2014

Authors and Affiliations

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

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