American Sociological Association

Rhoades History Chapter 7

 Chapter 7: Golden Era Dawns

The rapid expansion of the Society that began in the postwar years continued through the fifties and beyond. The golden era was underway.

Between 1949 and 1959, membership expanded from 2,673 to 6,436; total income rose from $22,556 to $145,406; Annual Meeting registrations increased from about 500 to more than 1,400, and the number of papers presented went from less than 100 to about 250.

Another journal was added to the publication program and two more were in the wings. Other types of publications appeared. Submissions to ASR jumped from about 200 to 1,000 per year, and non-member subscriptions rose from 1,352 to 2,339.

The Society became an Association; the Constitution was revised; ethics and graduate training were explored; awards were initiated; "modern" sections were established; Fellows were created, and traditional issues were pursued.

By 1960, "no less than 650 members" were serving on various committees and editorial boards.

Everything, however, was not rosy. The certification of psychologists posed a threat to the autonomy of the profession. Social science and academic freedom were under attack. Long-standing relations with other scientific and scholarly organizations were being tested. And additional services and increased costs maintained financial stress.

Nevertheless, in 1960, Matilda White Riley, Executive Officer, could state that "sociology as one of the social sciences has gained in maturity during the past decade" while it was being "represented with increasing dignity and effectiveness by an Association with which the overwhelming majority of sociologists and sociologists in-training wish to be identified."



The expansion of the publication program beyond the ASR and the Annual Meeting Program began in 1950 with the production of a Directory of Members. In that same year, the Society took another step that has had long-term significance for its publication program. It shifted the ASR to the Boyd Printing Company in Albany, York, effective with the 1951 volume.

An Index to the first 15 volumes of the ASR was published in 1951; the same year in which a series, Bulletins of the American Sociological Society, was begun to deal with "the practical affairs of the profession in the hope that these may develop ultimately into a second official periodical."

Two Bulletins were issued in 1951: "Participation of Sociologists in Government Programs" under the editorial guidance of Carl C. Taylor, Conrad Taeuber, John W. Riley, Jr., assisted by Harry Alpert, and "The Roles of the Sociologist: An Analysis of the Membership of the Society with Special Reference to Non-Teaching Occupations," by Wellman J. Warner. The last Bulletin, "Financial Assistance Available to Graduate Students in Sociology", under the editorial guidance of Jessie Bernard, assisted by Mariam Alpert of the Executive Office, appeared in 1952. The Bulletins were abandoned because of rising publication costs. Proposals for a monograph series were dropped for the same reason.

The desire to expand the publication program, however, could not be denied. In 1953, the Executive Committee, on the recommendation of the Executive Office, voted "to authorize the President to undertake preliminary negotiations with the Russell Sage Foundation for a joint project to publish a series of bulletins of professional interest." The President, in turn, "instructed the Executive Office to pursue the matter..." In August of that year, the Society authorized "the appropriate officer conclude an agreement with the Russell Sage Foundation which would make feasible the preparation and publication of a series of bulletins devoted to critical review of recent publications in such applied fields as penology, social psychiatry, health services, counseling, community organization, etc."

The first Russell Sage Bulletin appeared in January 1956: Sociology and the Field of Corrections by Lloyd Ohlin; the second in April 1956: Sociology and the Field of Mental Health by John Clausen; the third in April 1959: Military Sociology by Morris Janowitz, and the fourth in May 1959: Sociology and Education by Orville Brim.

The Bulletins won quick acceptance within the profession. By May 1959 the sales figures were: Corrections by Ohlin-3,584; Mental Health by Clausen-3,586; Military by Janowitz-919, and Education by Brim-1,989. The Bulletin series continued into the sixties.

The Society acquired its second journal on its 50th anniversary. In December 1954, J.L. Moreno offered Sociometry to the Society as a gift "without stipulations or conditions." In 1955, the Society accepted the journal with "deep gratitude" and began publishing it in 1956 under the editorship of Leonard S. Cottrell, Jr.

In 1958, the Liaison Committee for Sociology and Education suggested that the Society negotiate for the Journal of Educational Sociology. The Executive Officer was authorized to enter into exploratory negotiations with the sponsors of the journal and to express the Society's "interest in pursuing a plan for a publication in this field."

In that same year, the Society published the symposium volume, Sociology Today: Problems and Prospects, edited by Robert K. Merton, Leonard Broom and Leonard Cottrell, that was based on papers presented at the 1957 Annual Meeting. The Society also voted that year to take over the Public Opinion Quarterly "under appropriate conditions", but Princeton University decided to retain ownership.

By the end of the decade, the Society was also publishing Program Abstracts and a listing of Current Research Projects. In addition, the Employment Bulletin was being issued as a supplement to the ASR.

All through the fifties the Society tried to implement a recommendation of the 1950 Reorganization Committee which called for "a new periodical to deal with the practice of sociology as a profession." The Bulletins of the Society and the section on "The Profession" started in ASR in 1958 were interim solutions.


Name Change

The American Sociological Society became the American Sociological Association in 1959 when "the members approved the revisions in the Society's Constitution and By-Laws necessary to a change in the name..."

The effort to change the name of the Society began in 1958 when Council recommended that "the necessary constitutional and legal steps be taken for a possible change in the name of the Society..." The first meeting under the new name was held in 1959.


Constitutional Revision

The revised Constitution, effective March 1951, was the result of the reorganization movement that began in 1947 with the D.C. chapter resolution and culminated with the report of the 1950 Reorganization Committee.

The new Constitution and By-Laws incorporated the following major recommendations made by the Reorganization Committee: (1) placed the ultimate governing power of the Society in Active members to be exercised through mail ballot or presence at membership meetings; (2) eliminated the power of the Business Meeting to amend the Constitution and to have its actions automatically implemented by Council; (3) established a 29-member Council composed of officers, 12 members-at-large, and representatives of regional and affiliated groups as the governing body; (4) created an Executive Committee charged with ongoing responsibility for implementing Council policies; (5) established the position of President-Elect; (6) reduced the term of Past-Presidents to three years; (7) legitimated the position of Executive Officer; (8) restricted student membership to five years; (9) established standing committees on publications and training and professional standards, and (10) required a referendum to amend the Constitution.

In 1956, a Constitutional amendment reduced the number of vice presidents from two to one.



The question of ethics was initially raised by the Committee on the Problems of the Individual Researcher composed of Alfred McClung Lee, chair; Theodore F. Abel, Stanley H. Chapman, Joseph K. Folsom and Simon Marcson.

In 1951, it "urged an examination of the standards of ethics and practice that do and should govern the subsidization of sociological research both in and out of colleges and universities because of the growth of opportunities in commercial and other special interest research for sociologists which is welcomed."

In 1953, the Committee on Standards and Ethics in Research Practice chaired by Lee and composed of Ray H. Abrams, Bernard Barber, Gordon W. Blackwell, Herbert Blumer, Carroll D. Clark, Mabel A. Elliott, Glaister A. Elmer, Nelson N. Foote, Robert N. Fort, S. Michael Miller and Hans Zeisel reported "the stage is being reached at which tentative formulations of official attitudes towards standards and ethics in research can be undertaken. These should not be drafted as efforts at 'legislating morals' but rather as efforts to crystallize and give enlightened direction to the evolving consensus." Further evolution of the consensus would have to occur, however, before action would take place.


Training and Standards

Calvin F. Schmid, chair, Committee on Training and Professional Standards, reported in 1953: "The work of the Committee during the past two years, including its discussions, correspondence, and review of studies, definitely points to a need for a careful and systematic survey of various problems relating to training and professional standards of sociologists."

Besides Schmid, the Committee was composed of Alpert, Joseph P. Fitzpatrick, John Foskett, Ruby Jo Kennedy, Elio D. Monachesi, Meyer Nimkoff and E. William Noland.

The study, however, was not immediately forthcoming; for as Elbridge Sibley, Committee chair, said in 1957: "An appropriate role for the Society, with respect to training and professional standards is not easy to define at the present state of development of the discipline. The dangers of premature formalization must be weighed against the present costs of anarchy. At one extreme stand some who advocate accreditation of departments or even licensure of practicing sociologists; the opposite position is epitomized in the ancient definition of sociology as whatever sociologists teach. Neither of these extremes is represented within the present Committee." The Committee, however, recommended that "a session on training should be a regular feature of Annual Meetings of the Society."

In 1958, the Committee recommended that a study of graduate training in sociology be undertaken by the Society, but pointed out that "if a study sponsored by the Society is to have significant influence on graduate education in sociology, its report should contain recommendations for improvement over prevailing practices."

Besides Sibley, the Committee was composed of Leonard Cottrell, Sanford M. Dornbusch, Walter Firey, Kurt B. Mayer, and Albert J. Reiss, Jr.

Council authorized the appropriate officers to seek funding for such a study that same year and in 1959 it instructed the President "to write to the Social Science Research Council pointing out that Elbridge Sibley is eminently qualified to conduct a much needed study of graduate training in sociology and urging that he be relieved of other duties to undertake such a study."

In 1963, The Education of Sociologists in the United States by Elbridge Sibley was published by the Russell Sage Foundation which funded the study.



The Edward L. Bernays Foundation Radio-Television Award was the first award presented at an Annual Meeting. In 1952, it was given to Gladys and Kurt Lang for their paper, "The Unique Perspective of Television and Its Effects."

In 1952, the Society accepted a $5,000 donation to establish the Robert MacIver Award. In 1954, these funds were supplemented when Theodore Abel, Morroe Berger and Charles H. Page gave the Society their royalties from the MacIver symposium volume, Freedom and Control in Modern Society.

The first MacIver Award, however, was not made until 1956 because of the difficulties involved in establishing requirements for the award. E. Franklin Frazier received the initial honor for The Black Bourgeoisie.

An award policy was developed for the Society in 1954 by a Committee on Awards composed of August B. Hollingshead, William H. Sewell, Paul Wallin, Wellman J. Warner, Alpert, Blumer and Sibley, chair.

The Committee stated the Society should offer awards "as long as the terms were consistent with the purposes of the Society set forth in the Constitution." It further stated that "primary consideration should be given to (1) honorific aspects of awards; (2) the influence of awards to individuals upon the morale and aspirations of sociologists at large, and (3) the role of awards in bringing the achievements of sociologists to the favorable attention of the academic world and the general public."


Modern Sections

A mechanism for creating Sections as they exist today was established in 1958 upon the recommendation of the Committee on Program and Organization as a means for accommodating "special interest" groups in the Society. Sections had existed since 1921, but their activities were primarily limited to organizing a session for the Annual Meeting.

Under the new relationship, the Society accorded "official recognition to Sections composed of members' with common interests in substantive fields within sociology" and extended "cooperation in matters of program planning, mailings to members, and in other matters as decided from time to time by the Council." Minimum membership was set at 200; each paying a fee of one dollar to the Society.



On the recommendation of the Committee on Program and Organization the Society also established a new membership category-Fellows-effective January 1, 1959.

Under this new provision, only Fellows were eligible for (1) elected office, (2) membership on Council, and (3) chairmanship of standing committees.

Members in the Active category automatically became Fellows after five years if their Active status rested upon "either (a) the present By-Law requirement of a PhD or equivalent professional training in Sociology, or substantial professional achievement in Sociology; or (b) the present alternative By-Law requirement of a PhD or its equivalent or substantial professional achievement in a closely related field, with the additional proposed requirement of major commitment to the field of Sociology."

Other members who have held Active status for five years could request the Classification Committee to review their credentials for Fellowship status. A certificate was issued to Fellows.


Traditional Concerns

A number of traditional concerns continued to be discussed in the fifties including (1) the Annual Meeting, (2) relations with the federal government, (3) the research mission of the Society, (4) relations with regional and affiliated societies, (5) public image of the profession, (6) teaching, and (7) international relations.

The 1953 Annual Meeting, organized by President Samuel A. Stouffer, is noteworthy for addressing several issues. It was the first meeting to be largely composed of contributed rather than solicited papers and most papers were limited to 1,200 words. In addition, it was the first meeting on the West Coast and the first meeting on a university campus-UC-Berkeley.

A Subcommittee on Sociology in the Federal Government, responding to a concern about "the type of representation the Society ought to have in Washington on a long-run basis" said in 1959:

While many distinguished members of the Society now serve as consultants to various agencies in Washington and occasionally testify as expert witnesses before Congressional committees, our Society has not endeavored systematically to anticipate needs or to develop latent potentials. We believe that the status of the profession and the public welfare will be enhanced by a carefully planned effort to make sociological knowledge and talent more readily available through the official auspices of the Society."

A variety of committees tried to develop the research mission of the Society by (1) looking at the problems of individual researchers; (2) creating a reporting procedure which would "help the individual sociologist become familiar with work in progress"; (3) encouraging research in smaller colleges and universities; and (4) developing an instrument for evaluating research publications.

Relations with affiliated and regional societies became problematic in the fifties. The difficulties involved the planning of the Annual Meeting, the services the Executive Office was to provide the societies, and the method of electing representatives of the societies to Council.

The public image issue was addressed by Peter P. Lejins, representative to the American Prison Association, who lamented the lack of participation of sociologists-criminologists in the Prison Association, in the following manner:

"One often hears sociologists deplore the fact that their discipline has not been as successful in establishing for itself a definite and recognized place within our contemporary society as some other social science disciplines have been. We often talk about better organization, promotion, better public relations, and yet there is an unquestionable opportunity for the sociologist to contribute, to gain recognition and to establish himself in a distinctly professional capacity; but he seems to lack interest and initiative, although this is the area to which he has so far had the major claim. For how much longer? Here is an issue which our Society might find it appropriate to explore."

A variety of committees continued to raise questions about the development of adequate materials for secondary school sociology, the training of secondary school teachers, and the method of teaching and the content of courses in colleges. ,

In 1959, Council instructed the President to appoint an ad hoc committee to draw up plans for a program of visiting scientists from the field of sociology to assist colleges and universities where "only a minimum of sociology is taught or where there is no sociologist on the faculty."

Finally, the Society severed its relationship with the International Federation of Sociological Societies and Institutes in 1952. In 1957, it received its first grant from the Asia Foundation to facilitate the development of relations between American and Asian sociologists, and a grant from the Carnegie Corporation to cover travel expenses of Society delegates to international meetings.



The effort mounted by the Society to protect the profession from the exclusionary provisions of state laws being promoted by psychologists to license or certify psychologists and social psychologists was probably the most intense organizational effort ever made by the Society.

The problem emerged in the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Implications of Legislation that Licenses or Certifies Psychologists composed of Theodore Newcomb, Sibley, and Guy Swanson, chair, in 1956:

"The American Psychological Association and its state affiliates have faced the problem of professional self-regulation by establishing a code of ethics and by working for the enactment of state legislation to insure that the public receives a high quality of professional service. The American Psychological Association, in the letter and the spirit of its policy recommendations for such state legislation, has sought to protect the legitimate interests of other professions."

"Nevertheless, some unintended consequences resulted that might limit sociologists trained in social psychology from performing their normal activities in teaching, research or consultation without violating the state code."

Many of the state laws being promoted by state psychological associations restricted the use of the label, "social psychologist", to persons trained in psychology and certified by the APA.

In 1957, Amos H. Hawley, chair, Committee on the Implications of Certification Legislation, urged officers of all state and regional sociological societies "to enter into consultation with state psychological associations when the latter begin to discuss drafting legislation to certify or license psychologists" and recommended that Council "provide legal, financial, and advisory assistance when necessary." At one point, "monitors" were appointed in 47 states.

Hawley and other Committee members—Edgar Borgatta, Philip Hauser, Alex Inkeles, Saul Mendlovitz, Gideon Sjoberg, Ralph Turner, and Swanson—also took their argument to the psychological community through an article published in The American Psychologist:

" sociologists we observe the movement toward certification by the state with growing concern. Our primary concern has to do with the impingement of state certification on social psychology as a branch of sociology. Perhaps it is unnecessary to point out that, on historical grounds as well as on the basis of past and contemporary contributions, sociologists believe their claim on social psychology to be as sound and as legitimate as that made by psychologists. Our freedom to continue to work in that area, it seems to us, is placed in serious jeopardy by the legislative enactments psychologists are sponsoring in the various states."

In 1959, Talcott Parsons, chair, Committee on the Profession, reported: "Though not yet fully formalized we have agreed with the American Psychological Association on a policy whereby the latter recommends that sociologists specializing in social psychology should be legislatively exempted from the restrictions on practice otherwise imposed on non-psychologists, though no rigid single formula on exemption is recommended for all jurisdictions. The American Sociological Society undertakes on its part, through its newly organized section on social psychology, to set standards for the certification of sociologists entitled to this privilege."


Academic Freedom

The question of academic freedom was raised in 1950 by "the recent action of the Board of Regents of the University of California, to impose oaths or contractual clauses on faculty members in public educational institutions which are not imposed on other public servants..."

After considerable debate, the Business Meeting passed a resolution "deploring such discriminatory requirements" because "there is a special interest on the part of social scientists in the right of free inquiry in the field of controversial social, economic, and political issues..." The resolution was subsequently supported in a referendum, although "the propriety of such action by the Society" remained an issue.


Social Science

The social sciences came under attack in 1954 by a Special House Committee investigating tax-exempt foundations. In his report as representative to the Social Science Research Council, Conrad Taeuber said, "The Committee staff developed an attack on empirical social science research and on the Council as one, if not the major, 'accessory agency' in a giant 'interlock' which has promoted basic changes in our national life and fostered empiricism, collectivism, and internationalism."

The hearings were suspended after Pendleton Herring, SSRC President, gave what was viewed in the press "as a forceful defense of social science and an effective answer to the allegations that had been made before the Committee."

That same year, the Society expressed "its confidence in the position taken by the Social Science Research Council, the Carnegie Corporation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and other organizations in upholding social science research as an integral and constructive part of the American way of life."

Actually, the social sciences began to attract political support in Washington in the fifties from such persons as Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Senators Hubert Humphrey, Estes Kefauver, Jacob Javits, Wayne Morse, and Representatives Charles O. Porter and Richard Bolling. This growing support probably lead to the establishment of a unified Social Science Research Program in NSF in 1954.



The relationships between social science and science and social science and the humanities placed some strain on the Society's affiliation with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Council of Learned Societies in the fifties.

The Society had affiliated with AAAS in 1931. In 1952, a committee chaired by Raymond Bowers was established to consult with other social science associations concerning "the whole relationship between the social sciences and AAAS."

That same year the Executive Committee empowered the President to protest AAAS offering a "prize in sociology" without consulting the Society. The prize, however, was in social science and not sociology. It eventually became the AAAS Social Psychological Prize.

In 1953, Bowers recommended that the Society postpone action because "AAAS is moving to redefine its objectives and program, and to reorganize its permanent staff." In 1954, Bowers said, "...we cannot afford to withdraw our support from the only central organization of all science at a time when science and scientists are becoming so important and, at times, controversial." Council agreed and urged members of the Society to participate more fully in the activities of Section K.

ACLS developed financial problems in the fifties which became "critical" in 1955. The Society had voted in 1954 to continue its affiliation with ACLS "provided that the annual costs to the Society do not exceed $100." Grants from the Carnegie Corporation and the Houghton Foundation allowed, ACLS to continue operating, but organizational problems remained.

In 1957, social science delegates asked ACLS to clearly state what services it performed for the social sciences. As a consequence, ACLS moved to strengthen its working relationships with its constituent societies, including those in the social sciences.

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