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A Dream Team

Perrucci, Miller, and Contemporary Sociology

by Earl Wysong, Indiana University Kokomo

Robert Perrucci and JoAnn Miller, scholar-warriors of Purdue University, will assume editorial command of Contemporary Sociology at the turn of the real 21st century. In an era where mainstream media and conventional scholarship too often appear entranced by TINA (there is no alternative) and focused on “Muggles” (mass consumption drones oblivious to their circumscribed lives in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books), Bob and JoAnn stand a world apart. As seasoned sociological veterans, they bring to their CS editorship a battle-tested commitment to critical thought, scholarly diversity, and open inquiry. They also bring a keen appreciation of sociology’s scholarly foundations and a deep commitment to encouraging new developments in the field.

Bob and JoAnn have impressive (and progressive) professional credentials. Bob’s interests in work, social class, organizations, and political economy have led to 14 books, over 70 articles/book chapters, and dozens of papers. His most recent books include The New Class Society (1999, with Earl Wysong) and Science Under Siege? Interest Groups and the Science Wars (2000, with Lee Trachtman). JoAnn’s focus on law, family violence, and social problems has led to four books, 29 articles/book chapters, and numerous papers. She is currently working on a new book, Love Hurts: The State’s Response to Partner Abuse, based in part on her research as a Fellow in Law and Sociology at the Harvard Law School, 1999-2000. Their work has been supported in part by numerous grants from various sources totaling over $1 million. Besides being very productive researchers, Bob and JoAnn have also served as consummate mentors for many graduate students. Their continuing efforts to nurture, nudge, challenge, and promote the brightest new lights in sociology are understated in the c.v. listings of their “professional achievements.” Even so, their contributions in this area have been (and remain) critically important to nourishing the discipline.

Within the field, Bob and JoAnn are active professional leaders. Bob is currently President of the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP). In the past his posts have included, for example, SSSP vice president (1996-97), ASA Committee on Nominations (1988-89), ASA Organization and Occupation Section Chair (1982-83), and North Central Sociological Association (NCSA) President (1973-74). JoAnn is currently SSSP program Co-Chair. She has served as the SSSP Law and Society Division Chair (1996-98) and as a member of the Council of Division Chairs Nominating Committee. In 1989 JoAnn was co-organizer (with Dean Knudsen) of a nationwide conference on “Responses to Family Violence: A Research Conference.” In the world of publications, their professional involvement includes numerous editorial posts. A sampling includes Bob’s service as editor of The American Sociologist and Social Problems, associate editor of the American Sociological Review, Social Problems, Contemporary Sociology, Sociological Quarterly, Sociological Focus, and membership on the Contemporary Sociology editorial board. JoAnn has served as deputy editor of Social Problems, editor of Pro Bono (SSSP Law & Society Newsletter), and as an editorial board member of Marriage and Family Review. Their editorial teamwork at Social Problems (1993-96) was a successful collaborative venture which encouraged them to seek the CS assignment.

Chance and choice conspired to bring Bob and JoAnn to sociology and to Purdue by unconventional routes. And while they have different specialized interests, they share a common vision of sociology as a vehicle for both understanding and changing the social world. A high school dropout fresh out of the Marine Corps but supported by the G.I. Bill, Bob claims to have come to sociology as much by accident as by design. At SUNY Cortland he encountered Ephraim (“Hal”) Mizruchi and later at Purdue he crossed paths with Louis Schneider. Bob considers these remarkable mentors to have been extremely influential in shaping his academic interests and career. His reading of Morris R. Cohen’s A Dreamer’s Journey attracted him to a life of ideas, but he says, “ideas alone were not enough.” His affinity for combining scholarship with action was natural given his belief that “political activism is an important spark for continued intellectual growth.” From the 1960s (PhD, Purdue, 1962) to the present, Bob has often linked his research with activism on behalf of progressive social change. A veteran of the civil rights and anti-war movements, in the 1980s he worked for peace and social justice in Central America and the middle east. More recently he has focused on plant closings, class polarization, and policies promoting greater economic, political, and social equity. In short, today, as in the past, Bob says, “I have always viewed sociology as a liberating discipline.”

JoAnn came to sociology via a night school college program. Her concerns with social inequalities were sharpened and refined by a memorable cast of mentors. Eleanor Vander Haegen at Keene State (NH) was followed by Satoshi Ito at William and Mary as influential guides to the field. At the University of Massachusetts (PhD, 1984), Peter and Alice Rossi left a lasting impression as “passionate researchers who never stopped looking for new ways to understand social phenomena.” Since joining Purdue (1984), Carolyn and Bob Perrucci and Dean Knudsen have been among her most supportive colleagues. JoAnn’s record as a researcher and as a consultant often overlaps with her concerns with inequities in the legal and criminal justice system. In 1991 she served as Visiting Scholar with the Indonesia Second University Development Project in Jakarta. She found her work there on criminal justice policy and evaluation research to be very rewarding despite censorship by the military government. Of that experience she says, “Like Peter Rossi taught me, when it seems futile, you must only work harder.” Indeed, few people in or out of sociology have worked harder than JoAnn as a fair-minded researcher or as a passionate advocate for progressive policy reforms to empower those on the margins of the mainstream social order.

Bob and JoAnn are a real life editorial “Dream Team.” They bring to CS the energy, vision, and experience essential to the editorial tasks they will face, and it is clear they are excited by the road ahead. Their goal is to facilitate the emergence of a new body of scholarly literature that will enrich sociology and keep the field vibrant, relevant, interesting and engaged in important scholarly and public issues in the new century. If an Honor Roll of Editors is ever compiled, Bob and JoAnn will stand at the top, and the wisdom of the ASA Council in selecting these stewards to monitor and enliven the sociological pulse will be apparent.