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Si Goode Remembered

by Lenore J. Weitzman, George Mason University

William Josiah Goode, former President of the American Sociological Association (ASA) and Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Stanford University, died unexpectedly on May 4, 2003. He was best known for his pioneering cross-cultural analysis of marriage and divorce and for his theoretical work on social control systems of prestige, force, and love.

A man with an enormous range of interests and expertise, Goode published 20 books and more than 80 articles. His most influential book, World Revolution and Family Patterns (1963) was the most cited work on the family for three decades. Drawing on his knowledge of nine languages, he analyzed materials from more than 50 countries worldwide, for the previous century, to trace the emergence of distinctive family patterns with industrialization. His other major books include Religion Among the Primitives (1951), Methods in Social Research (with Paul Hatt, 1952), After Divorce (1956), The Celebration of Heroes (on prestige, 1978), The Family (1982), and World Changes in Divorce Patterns (1993).

William J. Goode, known as Si, was often referred to as a “Renaissance man”: he was an accomplished mycologist, sailor, scuba diver, painter, tennis player and gourmet cook. His culinary skills were the subject of a full page article in the New York Times and enshrined in a book of Craig Claiborne’s Favorites; he won Nastar medals in downhill skiing, and USTA tennis (into his 80’s); one of his paintings graced the cover of a book; and his articles on mycological nomenclature and bird watching were published by naturalists.

William J. Goode was born in 1917 in Houston, TX. His father, a plumbing contractor, lost everything in the Depression. Si’s lifelong identification with the poor was rooted in those hard years: he wore worn-out shoes lined with cardboard and gleaned discarded fruits and vegetables at the railroad yards.

In high school, Lyndon B. Johnson, the future President, was Si’s debating coach and became an important mentor. Johnson spent endless hours critiquing Si’s presentation — from the logic of his argument, to his need for freshly ironed shirts. But, as Si noted, “he made you feel important just because he was nagging at you so much, throwing his whole self into improving you.” While his team won the state championship (Si won first in the boys declamation), their awe of Johnson was shaken when he gave up his brilliant teaching career to work “as a secretary” for a congressman.

Although Si assumed he could not afford college, he received a full fellowship at Rice Institute and started college at 16.

Two years later, in the spring of 1936, Si was expelled from Rice for violating the school’s (unpublished) dress code by wearing tennis shorts to class. It was characteristic of his lifelong pattern of non-conformity to rules he considered unimportant.

Si completed his BA and MA in Philosophy at the University of Texas-Austin in 1938 and 1939. They were hard years economically, but exciting years intellectually. He studied with Clarence Ayers, the great institutional economist, who mentored a generation of Texas-born sociologists including Kingsley Davis and Marion Levy, who became Si’s life-long friends. They were “tough friends” who wouldn’t let you get away with anything—brutally honest, arrogant, critical, and challenging.

Si began work on a PhD in sociology at Penn State, but was eager to join the war against Hitler. He enlisted in the Navy, becoming a radarman on an attack transport ship carrying and landing troops in the Pacific.

After the war, Goode became an Assistant Professor in Sociology at Wayne State University, where he was part of a network of bright young people on the frontier of music, art, dance, sociology, and labor politics. He wrote Methods in Social Research with Paul Hatt (1952, with many reprintings), which was widely used throughout the western world and Asia, in authorized and unauthorized translations (including a highly successful pirated Chinese edition), and taught research methods to three generations of social scientists.

In 1950 Goode moved to Columbia University to collaborate with Robert K. Merton on a project analyzing the professions in American society. He became an Associate Professor in 1952, and a full Professor in 1956. In 1975 he was named the Franklin H. Giddings Professor of Sociology. He was chair of the Department in the 1960s and 1970s and served as the Associate Director of the Bureau of Applied Social Research and on its Board of Governors from 1956-70.

In his early years at Columbia he published his dissertation, Religion Among the Primitives (1951) and his pioneering study of divorce, the first to focus on the experiences of single-parent mothers and their children. After Divorce (1956) was modeled on Durkheim’s Suicide, and combined rigorous theorizing with empirical research.

Goode’s next and most ambitious project was World Revolution and Family Patterns (1963), a wide-ranging theoretical and empirical study of family and social change in the previous century. Twenty-five years later, in a retrospective ASA symposium on the book, scholars praised its majestic analysis and enduring relevance and reported that his predictions were still accurate.

As Professor at Columbia, Si had an “open-door” and warm personal relations with younger faculty and graduate students. He was known as a man of great decency and integrity, as someone you could trust.

Unlike many senior male professors of his generation, Si actively encouraged his women students—and held them to the same high standards as his male students. He sponsored them and pushed them to apply for fellowships, grants, and top jobs—and to treat themselves and their careers as seriously as he did.

Si was also an early supporter of the nascent women’s movement, both intellectually and personally. He spent many hours working with his life-long friend Betty Friedan when she was writing The Feminine Mystique. They both joke about her ingenuity in getting a senior professor at Columbia to be her (unpaid) research assistant. He also co-edited The Other Half with Cynthia Fuchs Epstein.

During his years at Columbia, Si wrote articles that became classics in the field. Many began with an evocative title: “The Theoretical Importance of Love”; “The Protection of the Inept”; “Why Men Resist”; “Violence Among Intimates”; “A Theory of Role Strain”; and “The Theoretical Limits of Professionalism.”

Each article challenged conventional wisdom and revealed hidden social patterns of theoretical importance. For example, while most sociologists considered romantic love relatively trivial, Goode revealed its theoretical importance by analyzing the elaborate safeguards all societies create to restrict the free market in love and limit its potential destructiveness.

In 1977 Si decided to begin a new life in California with Lenore J. Weitzman. He became a Professor of Sociology at Stanford University, where he taught for the next nine years. Si’s graduate seminar on social theory became well known for its intellectual rigor and for the incredible chocolate desserts he made to serve during the break.

At Stanford he published what he considered his most significant and most radical book: The Celebration of Heroes: Prestige as a Social Control System (1978). It was the first systematic treatise in sociology on the production and allocation of prestige, honor, and respect as a system of social control.

Goode saw prestige as a major axis of all social structures, like economics or power, and noted that more people had been killed for honor, respect, and glory, than for money.

In 1986, Si became an Emeritus Professor at Stanford and joined the Sociology Department at Harvard University, where he embarked on another landmark study, World Changes in Divorce Patterns (Yale University Press, 1993).

Goode’s reputation for scholarship and teaching was widely acknowledged internationally, and he was invited to many countries, including China, India, apan, Korea, France, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Sweden, Germany, and Yugoslavia. He was Visiting Professor at the newly opened Free University of Berlin in 1954; a visitor at Wolfson College, Oxford University, in 1980 (where he played on the college tennis team); distinguished guest lecturer for the Chinese Academy of Science in 1986; and Visiting Professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1992-93.

In 1994, when Si moved to Virginia and George Mason University, he announced he was going to be “a mandarin” and allow himself time to paint, sculpt, play the piano, create a garden, and improve his tennis. Si pursed each with great seriousness and intensity (while continuing to publish in sociology.) He took on new challenges by studying Hebrew, a fiendishly difficult language, hiking through Tuscany and the Galapagos, and waging daily battles with his computer.

William J. Goode’s scholarship was honored by numerous awards and prizes including election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; two Guggenheim fellowships; an honorary Doctorate of Science, Upsala, 1971; an NIMH Senior Scientist Career Award; the Merit Award for a lifetime of scholarship from the Eastern Sociological Association and the Family section of the ASA; the MacIver Prize for the best scholarly book given by ASA, and the Burgess Award in 1969.

Goode served as President of the Sociological Research Association; and President of the Eastern Sociological Society. In 1982 the ASA’s Family Section named its annual scholarly award for the outstanding book on the family in his honor.

There are many sociologists who feel that Si Goode was uniquely theirs—their special professor, trusted colleague, or loving friend. He was. And because he was, his death is an immeasurable loss.

One can easily imagine Si’s raging at the cosmos for the unfairness of being stolen away from us in the prime of his life. He was 85, but an 85 going on 50. And he had so much more to do!

But then, the Si who was a realist would have to admit that he had one hell of a glorious ride: he truly loved sociology and was enriched by more than six decades of intellectually challenging work; he had 85 years of robust energy that carried him from the tops of mountains on skis, to the ocean floor in scuba gear. He lived to enjoy the applause for his achievements, the admiration for his integrity, and the love and affection of countless students, friends, and family, for simply being who he was.

His contributions will continue to enrich the field of sociology, and many of us will carry his voice with us for decades to come.

William J. Goode’s family has decided to honor him by establishing a fellowship for graduate students engaged in cross-cultural dissertation research. They would welcome contributions to the ASA for the William J. Goode international fellowship. Send donations clearly noted for this purpose to the ASA Executive Office at 1307 New York Avenue NW, #700, Washington, DC 20005.

For tributes . . . Sociologists Remember William J. Goode.