Alvin Ward Gouldner

professor of sociology (1920-1980)

Alvin Ward Gouldner (July 29, 1920 – December 15, 1980) served as Max Weber Professor of Sociology at Washington University.

Quotes edit

  • The value-free doctrine is useful both to those who want to escape from the world and those who want to escape into it. It is useful to those young, or not so young, men who live off sociology rather than for it, and who think of sociology as a way of getting ahead in the world by providing them with neutral techniques that may be sold on the open market to any buyer. From such a standpoint, there is no reason why one cannot sell his knowledge to spread a disease just as freely as he can to fight it. Indeed, some sociologists have no hesitation about doing market research designed to sell more cigarettes, although well aware of the implications of recent cancer research. In brief, the value-free doctrine of social science was sometimes used to justify the sale of one's talents to the highest bidder and is, far from new, a contemporary version of the most ancient sophistry.
    • "Anti-Minotaur: The Myth of a Value-Free Sociology," Social Problems, vol. 9 (August 1961), pp. 199-213.
  • Insofar as our culture conventionally construes technical, scientific, and professional roles as those that obligate men to ignore all but the technical implications of their work, the very social structure itself is inherently pathogenic. The social function of such a segmented role structure is akin to that of the reflexive obedience induced by military training. The function of such a technical role structure, as of military discipline, is to sever the normal moral sensibilities and responsibilities of civilians and soldiers and to enable them to be used as deployables, willing to pursue practically any objective. In the last analysis, such arrangements produce an unthinking readiness to kill or to hurt others—or to produce things that do so—on order.
    • The Coming Crisis in Sociology (1970), p. 13
  • One of the most important functions of the "classics" in sociology is to root the sociologist in history and to enable him to live among and to take the role of truly great men. The classics implant standards of great, though often unfulfillable, achievement: they make it difficult for a man to be impressed or intimidated by those around him. An historical approach to theory puts one in the company of greatness, and it inevitably raises the standard by which one measures accomplishment. History thus insulates us from the vulgarities, no less than the gratifications, of the present.
    • The Coming Crisis in Sociology (1970), p. 16
  • The culture of critical discourse (CCD) is an historically evolved set of rules, a grammar of discourse, which (1) is concerned to justify its assertions, but (2) whose mode of justification does not proceed by invoking authorities, and (3) prefers to elicit the voluntary consent of those addressed solely on the basis of arguments adduced. CCD is centered on a specific speech act: justification. It is a culture of discourse in which there is nothing that speakers will on principle permanently refuse to discuss or make problematic; indeed, they are even willing to talk about the value of talk itself and its possible inferiority to silence or to practice.
    • The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class (1979), p. 28

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