Chat with us, powered by LiveChat What are your thoughts on the readings??Do you see an applied tradition running through the discipline, and if so, can you give an example?History_Applied_Sociology_H_Perlstadt_Sept_0 | WriteDen

What are your thoughts on the readings??Do you see an applied tradition running through the discipline, and if so, can you give an example?History_Applied_Sociology_H_Perlstadt_Sept_0

What are your thoughts on the readings? Do you see an applied tradition running through the discipline, and if so, can you give an example?




Michigan State University, East Lansing

Applied sociology is the oldest and most general term for what Lester F. Ward (1903) identified more than 100 years ago as “the means and meth-

ods for the artificial improvement of social conditions on the part of man and society as conscious and intelligent agents” (p. vii). Applied sociology uses sociological knowledge and research skills to gain empirically based knowledge to inform decision makers, clients, and the gen- eral public about social problems, issues, processes, and conditions so that they might make informed choices and improve the quality of life (Rossi and Whyte 1983; Steele, Scarisbrick-Hauser, and Hauser 1999). In its broadest sense applied sociology encompasses evaluation research, needs assessment, market research, social indicators, and demographics. It would also include directed sociological research in medicine, mental health, complex organi- zations, work, education, and the military to mention but a few.

Today, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, this concept of applied sociology fits nicely with the National Institutes of Health’s (Zerhouni 2003) and the National Institute of Mental Health’s (2000) new funding initiatives in translational research, which require that scientists tie their research to practical applications (Dingfelder 2005). Translational research aims at converting basic biological and behavioral science research into forms that can address pressing issues in health care diagnosis, treatment, and delivery. By extension, this means that applied sociologi- cal research will produce descriptions, analyses, and find- ings that can be translated into ideas and lessons learned from previous activities or programs to be used by action organizations, including citizens groups, foundations,

business, labor, and government. It is likely that in the near future, more public and private funding will continue to shift from basic to translational or applied research and from researcher-initiated grants to funder-defined con- tracts as universities become more engaged in community- based research and application (Petersen and Dukes 2004).

Early in the twentieth century, Ward (1906:9) separated applied sociology from civic and social reform. The rela- tionship between applied sociology, on the one hand, and deliberate interventions based in sociological reasoning by social engineers and clinical sociologists, on the other, has been a source of contention ever since. This chapter will focus on the history and development of applied sociology as a research endeavor undertaken on behalf of clients or funding agencies in contrast to the more direct interven- tionist approach of clinical sociology.

This chapter divides the past 150 years into four peri- ods: (1) from the origins of sociology through the end of World War I—1850 to 1920; (2) the struggle between aca- demic sociology and applied sociology—1920 to 1940; (3) the growth of federally sponsored research from the Second World War through the end of the War on Poverty—1940 to 1980; and (4) the emergence of a more independent and professional applied sociology since 1980.


Auguste Comte (1798–1857), who created sociology, divided it into social statics, the study of the conditions and

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preconditions of social order, and social dynamics, the study of human progress and evolution. Comte ([1854, 1896] 1961) wrote that the statical view of society is the basis of sociology but that the dynamical view is not only the more interesting of the two but more philosophical, since social dynamics would study the laws of the rise and fall of societies and furnish the true theory of progress for political practice. Comte (Barnes 1948a:101) envisioned a corps of positivist priests trained as sociologists, who would not possess any temporal power but rather would influence through teaching and provide informed direction to public opinion. They would impart useful scientific knowledge and social advice on all aspects of civil life. They would suggest action to the civil authorities but would never undertake such action on their own responsi- bility or initiative. It appears that Comte’s applied sociolo- gists would be neither basic researchers nor social activists/interventionists but rather occupy a translational role between the two.

In contrast, Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) argued against any form of artificial interference and that sociolo- gists should convince the public that society must be free from the meddling of governments and reformers (Coser 1977:97–102). He was very skeptical of the possibility of generating progress through legislation since such legisla- tion is not based on the widest possible knowledge of the sociological principles involved (Barnes 1948b:134). Spencer was a strong advocate of laissez faire and coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” several years before Darwin wrote Origin of the Species. As a result, he is con- sidered the founder of Social Darwinism. Spencer thought societies evolved from coercive militarism to peaceful industrialism in which individuals are free to move about and change their social relations without destroying social cohesion. The change from militarism to industrialism is an evolutionary process that depends on the rate of inte- gration, and the slower the rate, the more complete and sat- isfactory the evolution (Giddings 1909, cited in Tilman 2001). Therefore, evolution is a wholly spontaneous process that artificial human interference could in no way hasten but might fatally obstruct or divert (Barnes 1948b:129).

Within academic circles, one of Spencer’s early sup- porters was William Graham Sumner (1840–1910). Sumner introduced the first serious course in sociology in the United States at Yale University in 1875, adopting Spencer’s The Study of Sociology as the text. Sumner pro- moted a sociology marked by conservative politics, descriptive accounts of societal evolution, and the nature of normative systems that define and control behavior (Perdue 1986). In “The Absurd Effort to Make the World Over,” Sumner ([1894] 1911) strongly supported the idea that social evolution was almost entirely an automatic, spontaneous process that cannot be extensively altered by social effort (Barnes 1948c:160). He favored laissez faire policies and saw state activity as “ignorant social doctors” telling the Forgotten Man, that is, the hard working middle

class, what to do for those who had failed in the struggle for existence (Barnes 1948c:164).

Spencer was popularized in the United States through the efforts of Professor Edward Livingston Youmans, a chemist, educator, writer, and eventually an important agent and editor for D. Appleton and Company (Versen 2006). In 1860, after reading the prospectus for Principles of Psychology, Youmans arranged for the first American publication of Spencer’s works, and in 1872, became the founding editor of The Popular Science Monthly, which promoted science generally and evolution in particular. For Youmans (1872), science was not limited to natural and biological phenomena but included the intelligent observa- tion of the characters of people, the scrutiny of evidence in regard to political theories, the tracing of cause and effect in the sequences of human conduct, and the strict inductive inquiry as to how society has come to be what it is.

Spencer’s ideas on evolution, antimilitarism, and peace- ful industrialism became the focus of some adult education courses in the Second Unitarian Church in Brooklyn, New York. Youmans was acquainted with its minister, John White Chadwick. This group eventually formed the Brooklyn Ethical Association, and one of its objectives was “the scientific study of ethics, politics, economics, sociology, religion and philosophy, and also of physics and biology as related thereto” (Brooklyn Ethical Association, Certificate of Incorporation, cited in Versen 2004:9; Skilton 2005:4). The Association devoted its 1881–82 ses- sions to Spencer’s The Study of Sociology. Within 10 years, the Association created a class of Honorary Corresponding Members, which included Herbert Spencer himself; Thomas H. Huxley ([1893] 2004), President of the British Royal Society, who argued that humans created an ethical process that deviated from, and worked counter to, the nat- ural course of evolution; Minot J. Savage (1886), Unitarian minister in Chicago and Boston and author of Social Problems; Andrew Dickson White, historian and first pres- ident of Cornell University; Eliza A. Youmans, a pioneer in the field of botany and sister of Edward Youmans; and Joseph Le Conte, geologist, President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1891, and author of “Race Problems in the South” (1892), published in the Association’s Man and the State.

In 1892, the Brooklyn Ethical Association published Man and the State: Studies in Applied Sociology and in 1893, Factors in American Civilization: Studies in Applied Sociology. This may be the first use of the term applied sociology in the title of a book. The association considered sociology to be the science of social evolution and sought to apply “evolutionary philosophy and ethics to the study and discussion of the pressing problems of politics and statesmanship to come before the people of the United States” (Skilton 2005:4).

The preface to Man and State (Brooklyn 1892:v–vi) reaffirmed Spencer’s views that societies grew in a regular and orderly way according to inherent laws that were not mechanically imposed. It noted that while a priori schemes

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of social reformers can stimulate thought, promote altruis- tic endeavor, and educate the individual, enacting these schemes into legislation would not abolish poverty or crime, or speed the renovation of society. The preface saw the role of sociology as a safer and wiser way of individ- ual enlightenment and moral education. Sociology would subject the schemes of social reformers to the operations of the principle of natural selection, identify what is instructive and good in each, propose practical forward steps, and substitute the method of evolution for that of violent and spasmodic change, thereby, slowly promoting the permanent welfare of societies and individuals.

Lester F. Ward (1841–1913), who brought the term applied sociology into the discipline, spent most of his career as a paleontologist with the United States Geological Survey, joining the Sociology Department of Brown University in 1906 when he was 65. His early work focused on the relation of fossil plants to geological location in strata and this undoubtedly reflected an interest in evolution. In 1876, he published “The Local Distribution of Plants and the Theory of Adaptation” in Popular Science Monthly, which brought him to the attention of its editor, Edward Youmans. In addition, Ward’s mentor, the noted geologist and explorer John Wesley Powell, wrote to Youmans in sup- port of Dynamic Sociology or Applied Social Science, which was published in 1883 (Ward 1883:iii–v; Scott 1976:29).

Dynamic Sociology was the first major American work on sociology and although not intended as a text, was on the reading lists of early sociology courses. Ward differed sharply from Spencer and Sumner on laissez-faire individ- ualism, and he argued for the efficacy of government as an agent of social reform, if it could be put on a scientific basis and purged of its corruption and stupidity (Barnes 1948d:182). As a career government scientist with a legal background, Ward understandably took up Comte’s idea of sociocrats, believing that government can directly improve the conditions of society in a conscious or “telic” manner if the legislators will only become social scientists or have gained knowledge of the nature and means of controlling the social forces and be willing to apply this knowledge (Barnes 1948d:183 citing Dynamics). Scientific lawmak- ing would be based on a greater use of social statistics (Ward 1877), with sociology as the chief source of infor- mation that is essential for any extensive development of scientific government (Barnes 1948d:185).

On the other hand, Ward (1906:10) was very skeptical about the efforts of utopian social reform and socialist movements that favored radical and abrupt changes in social structures. He was a “meliorist” who thought that much could be accomplished through education of both the public and government leaders. Ward (1906) wrote,

Applied sociology is not government or politics, nor civic or social reform. It does not itself apply sociological principles; it only seeks to show how they might be. The most that it claims to do is to lay down certain general principles as guides to social and political action. (Pp. 9–10)

He added, “A sociologist, who takes sides on current events and the burning questions of the hour, abandons his science and becomes a politician.” Ward came to this mainly as a reaction to Spencer’s writing, which Ward thought was prejudiced, not scientific, and not in harmony with Spencer’s system as a whole and well before Max Weber ([1913] 1978) called for value-free sociology.

Youmans was disappointed with the initial sales of Dynamic Sociology or Applied Social Science and sus- pected that the title, which was drawn directly from Comte’s classification, was too close to Spencer’s Descriptive Sociology, which in turn derived from Comte’s social statics (Ward 1897:v). Ward, who would become the first president of the American Sociological Society (later renamed American Sociological Association, or ASA), was a participant in many intellectual and scientific societies (Odum 1951), including the Philosophical Society and Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C. (Scott 1976) and the Metaphysical Club (Menand 2001:301). He may have come across the term applied sociology as a result of attending a meeting of the Ethical Association, at which Dr. Felix Adler, professor of Hebrew and Oriental Literature at Cornell University and founder of the ethical culture movement, among others, dealt with different methods of relieving human suffering and promoting human welfare. Ward (1906:28) wrote that this congress (possibly of all the ethical societies in America that was held in St. Louis in 1896) talked applied sociology from first to last. He was familiar with the new ethics that inquired into social conditions and sought to introduce modifications that would prevent existing evils and render their recurrence impossible (Ward 1906:29).

This may have included the Brooklyn Ethical Association’s two volumes of Studies in Applied Sociology. By the early 1890s, Ward (1903:vii, viii, 6) also knew that several European sociologists were using the term pure sociology. He may have first used the terms pure and applied sociology in the titles of two summer school courses at the University of Chicago in 1897, which he repeated at the University of West Virginia in 1898 and then at Stanford University in 1899. He published Pure Sociology in 1903 and Applied Sociology in 1906.

Ward himself did not do any sociological fieldwork or empirical research. Reformers at Hull House in Chicago did the earliest applied research in the United States. Despite his dislike for social reformers, Ward would prob- ably have been pleased that it was done primarily by a group of women since he was a strong advocate of gender equality (Odum 1951). Like Ward, Jane Addams was crit- ical of socialism and abstract theories that impeded social learning by their inflexibility and tendency to divide people. She also thought that science could guide social reform through the patient accumulation of facts about the lives of the working poor.

The key activist researcher was Florence Kelley (1859–1932), the daughter of a U.S. congressman, who studied at Cornell University and the University of Zurich


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and, in 1887, translated Engel’s The Conditions of the Working Class in England. She came to Chicago in 1891 with her three children and became a resident of Hull House. Kelley, Addams and the other Hull House activists were convinced that once the overwhelming suffering of the poor was documented and publicized, meaningful reforms would be quickly put into place (Brown 2001).

In 1892, the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics hired Kelley to investigate the “sweating” system in the Chicago garment industry. Then, in 1893, when the U.S. Congress commissioned a nationwide survey to investigate the slums of great cities and assess the extent of poverty in urban areas, she was selected to lead the survey effort in Chicago. Kelley and others conducted a door-to-door survey in the Hull House district and, following the lead of Charles Booth’s maps of poverty in London, created maps showing the nationality, wages, and employment history of each resident. Published in 1895, The Hull-House Maps and Papers offered no explanation for the causes of poverty and social disorder.

For Addams, practice was a priority over theory (Schram 2002). In the preface, she claimed that this was not a sociological investigation to test or build theory but a constructive work that could help push the progressive agenda to address the injustices of poverty. As such, it simply recorded certain phases of neighborhood life and presented detailed information that might prompt a humanitarian response from the government (Brown 2001). Kelley authored two chapters, one on the sweating system and another with Alzina P. Stevens on wage- earning children. Interestingly, the authors of two other chapters, Charles Zeublin, “The Chicago Ghetto” and Josefa Humpal Zeman, “The Bohemian People in Chicago,” were forerunners of the Chicago School of Sociology of the 1920s. Zeublin joined the faculty of the University of Chicago Sociology Department a few years later.

Kelley earned a law degree from Northwestern University and in 1899 moved to New York City to head the National Consumer’s League (NCL) where she worked with Josephine Goldmark, director of research at NCL, to prepare the successful “Brandeis brief” defense of 10-hour workday legislation for women in Muller v. Oregon (1908), which like the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) school desegregation case almost 50 years later, used soci- ological evidence to support its case (Sklar 1985; Deegan 1986).

Jane Addams (1860–1935) followed her own applied and activist track in Chicago. Throughout her career, she maintained a tenuous relationship with academic sociol- ogy. In 1892, she taught a summer course on applied phil- anthropy and ethics with sociologist Franklin Giddings, and, in 1893, presided over a two-day conference at the Chicago World’s Fair sponsored by the International Parliament of Sociology. She declined at least two offers to join the Sociology Department at Chicago, apparently over concerns about the limits on speech and political activism

associated with university settings. Addams, however, did become a charter member of the American Sociological Society, was an invited speaker at several meetings, and published in the American Journal of Sociology (AJS) as well as other scholarly and popular journals. Two of her books (Adams [1902] 1964, [1916] 2002) received favor- able reviews in the AJS (Deegan 1986).

But by 1920, a combination of backlash against social activism, the development of social theory to explain the causes as well as the effects of social problems, and gen- der discrimination marginalized Addams and other women sociologists from regular academic departments into what would become schools of social work (Deegan 1986).

If Addams and other social workers charted an inde- pendent course, Seba Eldridge (1885–1953) worked in social services before discovering sociology. Initially trained as a civil engineer, he came to New York City around 1907. He held a part-time position with the Bureau of Advice and Information of the New York Charity Organization Society investigating and appraising civic and social agencies appealing for aid and occasionally resided at various East Side settlement houses, becoming familiar with the conditions of the people in the neighbor- hoods (Ream 1923; Clark 1953; McCluggage 1955). Eldridge knew of the work of Felix Adler and the Ethical Culture movement. In 1911, he began graduate study at Columbia University in social philosophy and finished his dissertation under John Dewey in 1925. But he also stud- ied with both Franklin Giddings and William F. Ogburn and learned of their interests in scientific sociology, quan- titative methods, and objectivity. From 1913 to1915, he served as secretary of the Department of Social Betterment of the Brooklyn Bureau of Charities.

Eldridge (1915) wrote Problems of Community Life; an Outline of Applied Sociology in which he classified New York’s social problems according to the attention given them by reformers and the general public along with the general plans that various philanthropies, social reform groups, and municipal agencies put forward for the better organization of reform activities in the city. His sugges- tions for reform were few and emerged from the logic of the situations under analysis rather than from partisan interests (he was politically active on the side of anti- Tammany forces). In 1921, Eldridge joined the sociology faculty at the University of Kansas where he remained for the rest of his life. Much of his subsequent work focused on methods of improving the quality of citizenship, and he was well ahead of his time in advocating that social science departments should give students actual practice in the skills of citizenship through participation in commu- nity activities.

Not only was sociology being applied in social welfare and social policy, but it also gained an early toehold in industry. In January 1914, Henry Ford created a “profit sharing” plan that would pay workers up to $5 a day, when the average wage for an unskilled automobile worker was $2.40. The “profit sharing” was not a Taylorist scientific

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management bonus for additional quality work and was not directly tied to Ford Motor Company profits. Rather, it depended on workers maintaining good habits and taking care of their families and dependants. This was a radical concept and challenged the general belief that a sharp increase in the wages would have a bad effect because the workers would spend the additional money on drinking and gambling. Ford, however, wanted every worker to have a comfortable home and be able to own a Ford automobile. To select workers for the program and monitor their behav- ior as well as test this “theory,” he created a “Sociology Department” within Ford Motor Company (Loizides and Sonnad 2004).

The Department was headed by John R. Lee who was asked to identify which workers were qualified to partici- pate in the “profit sharing” and then help the others to become qualified. This meant gathering information from the workers, and occasionally friends or neighbors, on their background, family situation, financial state, and per- sonal habits through informal, semistructured interviews. Recorded data included basic demographics; financial information, including life insurance and bank name, loca- tion and balance; and health information, including family doctor and habits such as smoking or drinking. In early 1914, investigators and interpreters, selected from among existing Ford employees, were highly visible as they drove Ford automobiles to the homes of the workers who were to be interviewed. The result was that 60 percent of the work- ers qualified for the “profit sharing” (Loizides and Sonnad 2004).

However, the investigators were aggressive and some questions were intrusive. In addition, many non-English speaking workers did not qualify, possibly because of translation difficulties, and they and their families were angry. (The cause of these negative reactions would be recalled in the mid-1930s when Ford adamantly opposed unionization). Lee then conducted a second phase, in the spring of 1914, to verify the initial findings and use better- prepared translators. He told the investigators not to go into a home in a way that they would not want someone to come into theirs and cautioned them about delving into strictly personal matters. At the end of this phase, 69 per- cent of the workers were eligible. The company then began to Americanize its immigrant work force. In May 1914, it opened the Ford Language School, which taught English to workers after the first shift. Classes also stressed American ways and customs, encouraged thriftiness, and good personal and work habits. By the end of 1914, 87 per- cent of the workers qualified for the “profit sharing” (Loizides and Sonnad 2004).

In 1916, Lee left Ford to develop the field of personnel management. Lee (1916) wrote a paper on the Ford profit- sharing system for the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences. About 10 years later, Shenton (1927:198) noted in his Practical Application of Sociology that “certain businessmen have already made beginnings in sociological research and a number are

conducting experiments under the observation of trained sociologists.”


In 1916, sociology students at the University of Southern California started a journal, Studies in Sociology, but in October 1921, they changed its name to Journal of Applied Sociology. Alice Fesler (1921) explained that the name was taken from Ward’s threefold classification of pure sociol- ogy, applied sociology, and social reform. The journal car- ried short pieces by students and well-known sociologists. A 1924 issue included “The Major Ills of the Social Survey” by Seba Eldridge, “A Race Relations Survey” by Robert E. Park, and “Social Psychology of Fads” by Emory Bogardus. But in 1927, the JAS was combined with the Bulletin of Social Research to become Sociology and Social Research. An editorial note explained that since productive research was the very basis of applied sociol- ogy, the journal would now publish significant pieces of research, although descriptions and analyses of social problems and the process, whereby they are reduced and solved, would still be printed. The journal would combine research and practice (Lucas 1927).

World War I marked the beginning of the end for the Progressive Era of social reforms to improve the lives of workers and immigrants, to conserve natural resources, and to make government more effective and less corrupt. In the social sciences, the acceptance of statistical thinking and quantification spurred the emergence of scientific methods, which in turn supported a growing dominance of the academic discipline over practical sociology and social activism. Social work was considered to be a technique and an art, not a science (Shenton 1927). In contrast, applied sociology was a science that could contribute to the development of an objective description of social prob- lems and an understanding of their causes (Bossard 1932) and could be used to guide social planning and social engi- neering (Odum 1934). Applied sociology would attempt to keep an even keel of objective, value-free, social research amidst cross-currents of political ideology and social activism.

In 1916, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, a former Princeton professor of political science, supported a request by the National Academy of Sciences to create a National Research Council (NRC) to organize research and secure the cooperation of military and civilian agen- cies as a measure of national preparedness (Cochrane 1978). In 1918, after the United States entered the war, Wilson (1918) issued an executive order under which the NRC was

to stimulate research in the mathematical, physical and biological sciences, and in the application of these sciences to engineering, agriculture, medicine and other useful arts, with


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the object of increasing knowledge, of strengthening the national defense, and of contributing in other ways to the public welfare.

(Social sciences would not be explicitly added until George H. Bush did so in a January 1993 executive order.)

In 1921, Congress passed the national origins immigra- tion Quota Act that discouraged immigration from eastern and southern Europe. The next year, the NRC asked for social science representation on a study of human migra- tion (Rhoades 1981). The sociologist member of the Committee on the Scientific Problems of Human Migration was Mary Abby van Kleeck, the director of the Russell Sage Foundation’s Department of Industrial Studies. Van Kleeck was a pioneer in industrial sociology, having conducted studies of unorganized workers and sweatshop labor. Other sociologists who attended a spon- sored conference on migration, included Edith Abbott, Henry Fairchild, William Ogburn, and Robert Park (Wissler 1929).

On taking office in 1929, President Herbert Hoover established the President’s Research Committee on Social Trends in the hope that social issues and problems could be scrutinized in the rational manner that had characterized his earlier efforts that reduced domestic consumption of food by 15 percent without rationing during World War I and his organization of flood relief work and health improvement in 1927 (Odum 1933; Volti 2004; Hoover Archives 2005). The Rockefeller Foundation funded it for three years at $560,000, and William F. Ogburn (1886–1950), who coined the phrase “cultural lag,” was named study director (Rhoades 1981). He would also serve as director of the Consumers Advisory Board of the National Recovery Administration (NRA).

In his 1929 ASS Presidential address, Ogburn (1930) declared that “sociology as a science is not interested in making the world a better place in which to live.” On the surface this a


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