The Study of Man: Changing Social Status and Prejudice
In recent years it has been the fashion among American sociologists to belittle or more commonly to ignore the work of the earliest American sociologists, of men like Robert E. Park, Albion Small, C. H. Cooley, Lester F. Ward, and Edward A. Ross. These scholars, many of whom founded the first chairs in sociology at American universities during the first two decades of this century, are often dismissed as simply reporters, reformers, theologians, and philosophers—which is what most of them were, primarily. They began their work at a time when sociology had barely differentiated itself as a study from the more general interest in social problems that has always existed without benefit of a special name or special techniques. And they speculated about man’s social life without “going into the field” to undertake empirical studies, using as their data impressionistic and unscientific observations.
The collection and publication of the essays that one of these men, Robert E. Park (1864-1944), wrote over a period of thirty years on race relations and race prejudice, offers us the opportunity to form a more just view—and makes clear how much we owe to this first generation. Indeed, it becomes apparent that much that we consider peculiarly modern in the understanding of race relations and race prejudice was formulated as long as thirty-seven years ago.
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