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The Basics of Sociology

and the establishment of social order that still concerns sociologists today. Many
early sociologists were also concerned with the Industrial Revolution and rise of
capitalism and socialism. Additionally, the growth of cities and religious transformations were causing many changes in peoples lives.
These early founders of sociology all had a vision of using sociology
(Turner 1998, 250). Sharing Comtes belief, many early sociologists came from
other disciplines and made significant efforts to call attention to social concerns
and bring about social change. In Europe, for example, economist and philosopher Karl Marx (181883), profiled in chapter 2, teamed with wealthy industrialist Friedrich Engels (182095), profiled in chapter 7, to address class
inequality. Writing during the Industrial Revolution, when many factory owners
were lavishly wealthy and many factory workers despairingly poor, they attacked
the rampant inequalities of the day and focused on the role of capitalist economic structures in perpetuating these inequalities. In Germany, Max Weber
(18641920), profiled in chapter 2, was active in politics. In France, Emile
Durkheim advocated for educational reforms.
In the United States, social worker and sociologist Jane Addams
(18601935), profiled in chapter 11, became an activist on behalf of poor immigrants. Addams established Chicagos Hull House, a settlement house that
provided community services such as kindergarten and day care, an employment
bureau, and libraries. It also provided cultural activities, including an art gallery,
music and art classes, and Americas first Little Theater. Louis Wirth (1897
1952), profiled in chapter 8, built child-guidance clinics. He applied sociology
to understand how social influences impacted childrens behavioral problems
and how children could be helped by using this knowledge. During World War
II, sociologists worked to improve the lives of soldiers by studying soldiers
morale and attitudes as well as the effectiveness of training materials (Kallen
Sociologists are also responsible for some of the now familiar aspects
of our everyday lives. For example, sociologist William Foote Whyte (1914
2000), profiled in chapter 11, improved restaurant service by developing the
spindles that waitstaff in many diners use to submit food orders to the kitchen
(Porter 1962). Robert K. Merton (19102003), profiled in chapter 2, developed
the concept of what would become the focus group, now widely used in the
business world. Sociological perspectives are also the basis of many concepts
and terms we use on a daily basis. Lawyers plead extenuating circumstances
on their clients behalf, an acknowledgment of the sociological position that social forces influence human behavior; to talk about fighting the system acknowledges that social structures exist and influence our lives (Babbie 1996).
Sociologists have also been actively involved throughout the civil rights
movement. Ida B. Wells-Barnett (18621931) who is profiled below, published
and spoke out against lynching. W.E.B. Du Bois (18681963), profiled in chapter 7, was involved for most of a century in studying race and social activism.
Gunnar Myrdals An American Dilemma (1944) focused public attention on race.
The voter-rights efforts of Charles G. Gomillion in the 1940s and 1950s were in6


strumental in the U.S. Supreme Court decision that defeated gerrymandering

that had excluded almost all Macon County blacks from voting (Smith and Killian 1990, 113).
Although they have not traditionally received the recognition of their
white male counterparts, women and sociologists of color have made significant
contributions to the discipline since its founding. In recent years, efforts have
been undertaken to reinvigorate the voices of these lost sociologists. What we
know about their lives and works shows some truly outstanding accomplishments. For example, Comtes Positive Philosophy (1896, orig. 1838) was translated into English by Harriet Martineau (180276), who is profiled below.
Comte was so pleased with the results of her translation that he had her abridgment retranslated back into French. Martineau was a prolific writer and bestselling author in her own right on a variety of social issues. Her work earned her
recognition as the first female sociologist and Mother of Sociology.
These early women and scholars of color were working in a social context in which women and blacks were often denied education and faced other
types of discrimination. Most were trained outside the field. The first Ph.D. in
sociology was not awarded to a person of color until 1911, when Richard
Robert Wright received his doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania. Many
of these early sociologists were active in fighting for a number of social causes.
For example, many supported the suffragist movement. Also, black sociologists
often sought not simply to investigate and interpret social life, but to redress
the conditions affecting the lives of African Americans (Young and Deskins
2001, 447).
Today, women and persons of color continue to make important contributions to the discipline and beyond. Just among those individuals profiled in
this book are Dorothy Smith (profiled in chapter 10) who has changed the way
sociologists think about the world and the way they conduct research. Rosabeth
Moss Kanter (profiled in chapter 5) has become an internationally renowned
name in studying and improving organizations. Coramae Richey Mann (profiled
in chapter 6) has challenged the criminal-justice system and its treatment of minorities, youth, and women. William Julius Wilson (profiled in chapter 7) has
challenged thinking on class, race, and poverty. Patricia Hill Collins (profiled in
chapter 2) has increased our understanding of how race, class, and gender together all have social consequences in our world.
Contemporary sociologists are continuing the early sociologists tradition of using sociology to make differences in diverse areas of society. Many sociologists are, of course, teachers and researchers. However, sociologists are
actively using their skills throughout society in ways that extend well beyond academics and the classroom. Some sociologists, called applied or clinical sociologists, use their skills to find answers to practical problems. For example, they
apply their unique perspectives on conflict and social life to finding new ways to