Alvin Ward Gouldner

Alvin Ward Gouldner (1920; New York – 1980) was professor of sociology at Washington University in St. Louis (1959–1967) President of the Society for the Study of Social Problems (1962), professor of sociology at Amsterdam (1972–1976) and Max Weber Professor of Sociology at Washington University (from 1967).

His early works such as "Patterns in Industrial Bureaucracy" can be seen as important as they worked within the existing fields of sociology but adopted the principles of a critical intellectual. This can be seen more clearly in his his 1964 work, "Anti-Minataur: The Myth of Value Free Sociology", where he claimed the sociology could not be objective and that Max Weber had never intended to make such a claim.

He is probably most remembered for his 1970 work "The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology". This work argued that sociology must turn away from producing objective truths and understand the subjective nature of sociology and knowledge in general and how it is bound up with the context of the times. This book was used by many schools of sociology as analysis of their own theory and methods, however it should be noted that Gouldner was not the first sociologist to be critical of subjective knowledge of society, e.g. Adorno's Negative Dialectics.

After this much of his work was concerned with critiquing modern sociology and the nature of the intellectual. He argued that ideology often produced false premises and was used as a tool by a ruling elite, therefore critical subjective thought is much more important than objective thought.

Major works

*1954 "Patterns of Industrial Bureaucracy"
*1964 "Anti-Minotaur: The Myth of Value-Free Sociology"
*1967 "Enter Plato"
*1970 "The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology"
*1976 "The Dialectic of Ideology and Technology"
*1979 "The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class"
*1980 "The Two Marxisms"
*1984 "Against Fragmentation"

Background Assumptions

Referencing Gouldner, Michael Parenti said, "Our tendency to accept a datum or argument as true or not depends less on the content and substance of it, than it does on how congruent it is with the background assumptions we already have. But those background assumptions are of course established by the whole climate of opinion, the whole universe of communication that we are immersed in constantly here, which is why dissidents learn the discipline of fighting and developing their arguments from evidence, while those who work within the safe mainstream work a whole lifetime with unexamined assumptions and presumptions."

Further reading

[http://www.uta.edu/huma/agger/fastcapitalism/1_2/lemert.html Why Mills and Not Gouldner?] by Charles Lemert


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