Sociology and the Public Agenda


Edited by: William Julius Wilson

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Part I: The Politics of Citizenship

    Part II: Organizations, Social Movements, and Public Policy

    Part III: The Public Agenda: Addressing High Priority Social Problems

    Part IV: Issues for the Public Agenda

  • American Sociological Association Presidential Series

    Volumes in this series are edited by successive presidents of the American Sociological Association and are based upon sessions at the Annual Meeting of the organization. Volumes in this series are listed below.


    The Social Fabric: Dimensions and Issues (1986)


    in association with


    Social Structures and Human Lives: Social Change and the Life Course, Volume 1 (1988)


    Sociological Lives: Social Change and the Life Course, Volume 2 (1989)


    Cross-National Research in Sociology (1989)


    Sociology in America (1990)


    Macro-Micro Linkages in Sociology (1991)


    The Social Context of AIDS (1991)


    Sociology and the Public Agenda (1993)

    The above volumes are available from Sage Publications.


    Approaches to the Study of Social Structure (1975, out of print)


    The Uses of Controversy in Sociology (1976, out of print)


    Major Social Issues: A Multidisciplinary View (1978, out of print)


    Societal Growth: Processes and Implications (1979, out of print)


    Sociological Theory and Research: A Critical Approach (1980, out of print)


    Gender and the Life Course (1985, Aldine Publishing Co.)


    The Nature of Work: Sociological Perspectives (1990, Yale University Press)


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    About the Authors

    LINDA M. ANDREWS is currently a research associate with the Institute for Women's Policy Research. She received an M.S. in statistics and a B.S. in mathematics and economics, both from the University of South Carolina. Since joining the Institute for Women's Policy Research in 1988, she has contributed to several research projects by performing computer programming and statistical analysis. In this capacity, she has acquired substantial experience working with census microdata files, especially the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). She is currently working on a study of the impact of pay equity on state civil service workers and a study on the work and welfare patterns of AFDC recipients. Before coming to IWPR, she worked for 3 years in the actuarial field monitoring premium rates for group health insurance and Medicare supplement policies.

    BARBARA R. BERGMANN, currently Distinguished Professor of Economics at American University, Washington, D.C., has a doctorate from Harvard University. Her research interests include social policy, sex roles in the economy, and computer simulation methods. She has previously served on the staff of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Council of Economic Advisors, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Her most recent book, The Economic Emergence of Women (1986), explored the reasons for changes in women's economic role and outlined needed changes in the workplace, the marketplace, government policy, and the family. She is also coauthor (with Robert L. Bennett) of A Microsimulated Transactions Model of the United States Economy (1986).

    STEVEN BRINT is Professor of Sociology at University of California, Riverside. He is the author of The Diverted Dream: Community Colleges and the Promise of Educational Opportunity in America, 1900–1980 (with Jerome Karabel), and of the forthcoming Retainers, Merchants, and Priests: Politics and Culture in the Professional Middle Class in America (Princeton University Press).

    ROGERS BRUBAKER is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is author, most recently, of Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany (1992). He is currently working on the national question in post-Soviet Eurasia.

    JAMES P. COMER, M.D., is the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center, Associate Dean of the Yale School of Medicine, and Director of the School Development Program. His preventive psychiatry work in schools began in 1968 and his school improvement model is now used in school districts in 14 states. He has published more than 90 scientific articles, more than 20 book chapters, and four books, the latest, Maggie's American Dream: The Life and Times of a Black Family, based on the life of his own family and his work in schools. He is a graduate of Indiana University, Howard University College of Medicine, University of Michigan School of Public Health, and did his training in psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine.

    NEIL FLIGSTEIN is Professor of Sociology at the University of California-Berkeley. He has recently published a book, The Transformation of Corporate Control (1990), that provides a sociological view of the emergence and transformation of the large American corporation in the past century. He is currently working on a book manuscript with Doug McAdam that attempts to theorize the problem of strategic action. He is also doing a study of organizational and political change in the European Community as a result of the 1992 Single Market Program.

    FRANK F. FURSTENBERG, Jr., is the Zellerbach Family Professor of Sociology and Research Associate in the Population Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania. His interest in the American family began at Columbia University where he received his Ph.D. in 1967. His most recent books include: Adolescent Mothers in Later Life, with J. Brooks-Gunn and S. Philip Morgan and Divided Families: What Happens to Children When Parents Part, with Andrew Cherlin.

    HEIDI I. HARTMANN is currently Director of the Washington-based Institute for Women's Policy Research, a scientific research organization concerned with policy issues of importance to women. She is an economist with a B.A. from Swarthmore College and M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale University, all in economics. In spring 1988, she was Director of the Women's Studies Program at Rutgers University. During 1986–1987 she held an American Statistical Association fellowship at the Census Bureau where she conducted research on women's poverty. For 8 years previously she was a staff member of the National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences, where she contributed to many reports on women's employment issues, and she served as Associate Executive Director of the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Her work on feminist theory and the political economy of gender has been widely published.

    PHILIP HARVEY is a practicing attorney in New York City. He received his law degree from Yale and Ph.D. in economics from the New School for Social Research. He is the author of Securing the Right to Employment (1989) and coauthor with Theodore Marmor and Jerry Mashaw of America's Misunderstood Welfare State (1990).

    JOHN W. KINGDON is Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Michigan, and has been Chair of that Department. He has written widely on American governmental institutions, and has conducted major studies of legislative decision making and public policy formation at the national level in the United States. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has been a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow and a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

    DAVID KNOKE is Professor and Chair of Sociology at the University of Minnesota. He is Chair-Elect (1991–1992) of the Organizations and Occupations Section of the American Sociological Association. His most recent books are Organizing for Collective Action (1990); Political Networks (1990); and Basic Social Statistics (with George Bohrnstedt, 1991). Current projects are a survey of U.S. organizations’ human resources policies (with Arne Kalleberg, Peter Marsden, and Joe Spaeth) and a comparison of U.S., German, and Japanese labor policy domain networks (with Franz Urban Pappi, Jeffrey Broadbent, and Yutaka Tsujinaka).

    ROGER LAWSON, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Southampton, England, has published widely on social policy, poverty, and inequality in the United Kingdom and other Western European countries. His books include Responses to Poverty: Lessons From Europe (with R. Walker and P. Townsend) and Poverty and Inequality in Common Market Countries, which he edited with Vic George. He is currently completing a book on the development of the welfare states in Britain, Germany, and Sweden.

    LINDA MARKOWITZ is a graduate student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Arizona. Her current research interests are in the areas of gender and stratification. She is writing a dissertation about the intended and unintended actions of labor unions that have helped create occupational sex segregation.

    J. DONALD MOON received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and now teaches political science at Wesleyan University. He is the author of the chapter on the “Logic of Political Inquiry” in the Handbook of Political Science, and has published a number of articles on the philosophy of social inquiry. He is coeditor of Dissent and Affirmation and edited Responsibility, Rights, and Welfare (1988), and has written a number of articles on the political theory of the welfare state. He has just completed a book on the foundations of liberal theory, entitled Thin Selves, Rich Lives, Tragic Conflicts.

    PETER H. ROSSI is Stuart A. Rice Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Director Emeritus, Social and Demographic Research Institute, at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He is past-president of the American Sociological Association and was the 1985 recipient of the Commonwealth Award for contributions to sociology. His recent books include Down and Out in America (1989), Thinking About Evaluation (with R. A. Berk, 1990), and Evaluation: A Systematic Approach (with the late Howard E. Freeman, 1993). He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    ROBERT J. SAMPSON is Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago. His major research interests include the social sources of violence, multilevel theories of social organization, crime and delinquency over the life course, victimization, escape from poverty, and the history of criminological theory. Articles on these topics have appeared or are forthcoming in the American Sociological Review, Criminology, American Journal of Sociology, and Social Forces. He has also recently completed a paper on the community context of violent crime for the National Academy of Sciences, Panel on the Understanding and Control of Violent Behavior.

    PHILIPPE C. SCHMITTER is Professor of Political Science at Stanford University, formerly having taught at the European University Institute and at the University of Chicago. His current research interests are in the consolidation of democracy in Southern and Eastern Europe and Latin America, and he is finishing a book on the emerging European polity.

    ROBERTA M. SPALTER-ROTH, Deputy Director for Research of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, is a sociologist with a Ph.D. in sociology from American University and a B.A. degree from Indiana University. She joined IWPR at its inception in 1987. As Director for Research and Director for Research on Work and Family Policies, she has overall responsibility for the coordination of IWPR's research program and directs many specific projects. Prior to joining IWPR, she conducted research for more than 10 years for the Anti-Poverty Program and the Greater Washington Research Center. She is also an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the American University.

    CAROL H. WEISS is a professor at Harvard University in the Graduate School of Education. She holds a doctorate in sociology from Columbia University. She is the author or editor of eight books, including Evaluation Research: Methods of Assessing Program Effectiveness, Social Science Research and Decision Making, Reporting of Social Science in the National Media (with E. Singer), and Organizations for Policy Analysis: Helping Government Think. Much of her career has been devoted to studying the linkage between social science and policy-making. On the policy side, she has been an ASA Congressional Fellow, a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution, a senior fellow at the U.S. Department of Education, and a Visiting Scholar at the U.S. General Accounting Office, as well as consultant to a score of government agencies.

    WILLIAM JULIUS WILSON is Lucy Flower University Professor of Sociology and Public Policy and Director of the Center for the Study of Urban Inequality at the University of Chicago. He is the past President of the American Sociological Association and is a MacArthur Prize Fellow. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. His most recent books include The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy and A Broader Vision: Race, Class, and Poverty in Urban America (forthcoming).

    ANNE WORTHAM, Associate Professor of Sociology at Illinois State University and continuing Visiting Scholar at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, has taught at Wellesley College, Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, and Washington and Lee University. She holds a B.S. degree from Tuskegee University and a Ph.D. from Boston College, and is author of The Other Side of Racism: A Philosophical Study of Black Race Consciousness (1981). She is currently writing a book on theories of social and cultural marginality, and conducting a study of intellectuals on the right.


    Five decades ago, in 1939, Robert Lynd wrote that

    there would be no social sciences if there were not perplexities in living in culture that call for solution. And it is precisely the role of the social sciences to be troublesome, to disconcert the habitual arrangements by which we manage to live along, and to demonstrate the possibility of change in more adequate directions. (p. 181)

    Lynd strongly emphasized that social science is an organized segment of culture that exists to help society in continually comprehending and reconstructing its culture. This is achieved, argued Lynd, through the unique role of asking long-range and, if necessary, sharply irreverent questions of our democratic institutions; and of doggedly pursuing these questions with systematic research. As Lynd put it, “if social science is to be free to be science, it must have the courage to fight for its freedom from the dragging undertow of a culture preoccupied with short-run statements of long-run problems” (1939, p. 203).

    The 1990 Program Committee of the American Sociological Association developed the theme, “Sociology and the Public Agenda” to encourage discussion of the issues raised by Robert Lynd in the thematic sessions of the 1990 Annual Meeting of the Association in Washington, D.C. Our aim was to explore the problem of both protecting the tradition of free intellectual inquiring and of promoting the political and social responsibility of social science.

    In other words, the Program Committee wanted sociologists and the other social scientists to reflect upon the factors in the larger culture that bear on sociology as a discipline (what topics get researched, how funds are allocated, how and what data are collected, how these data are analyzed and by whom, etc.); upon how sociologists as a collectivity deal with these factors, including the protection of scientific autonomy; and upon the political and civic responsibility of sociological research vis-à-vis the larger society, including ways that sociology can contribute meaningfully and responsibly to public policy.

    Except for my introductory essay—“Can Sociology Play a Greater Role in Shaping the National Agenda?”—the chapters included in this volume were selected among those presented in the thematic sessions of the 1990 meeting. They have been organized around five topics including Sociology, Social Science, and the Public Policy Agenda; The Politics of Citizenship; Organizations, Social Movements, and Public Policy; The Public Agenda: Addressing High Priority Social Problems; and Issues for the Public Agenda. These topics represent the range of issues explored in the thematic papers presented at the Annual Meeting in Washington. My introductory essay incorporates arguments presented in each of the chapters. And I relate many of these arguments to provocative questions about the relationship between the future of sociology as a discipline and its role in shaping the national agenda.

    I would like to give a special thanks to Kathryn Neckerman, Judy Birgen, and Edward Walker for their assistance in preparing this volume for publication.


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