Sociology Index

Alvin Ward Gouldner

Among distinguished sociologists, Alvin Ward Gouldner was professor of sociology at Washington University. Professor of sociology at Amsterdam and Max Weber Professor of Sociology at Washington University. His early works Patterns of Industrial Bureaucracy (1954) and Wildcat Strike (1955) explored aspects of Max Weber's theory of bureaucracy in relation to strikes, management aud control. Alvin Ward Gouldner was always concerned with the possibilities for progressive social change, and specifically with the role of intellectuals in directing and contributing to change in The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class (1979). Alvin Ward Gouldner called upon sociologists to be more reflexive about their theories and role in society in The Dialectic of Ideology and Technology (1976).

In The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology, Alvin Ward Gouldner 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.

Alvin Ward Gouldner emphasized the capacity for working-class action and industrial disruption despite the constraints of bureaucracy. He worked on a project which would provide a historical and critical study of social theory from Plato (in Enter Plato, 1965) to Marxism (in The Two Marxisms, 1980) to contemporary sociology (in Against Fragmentation, 1985).

In 1974, Alvin Ward Gouldner founded the influential journal Theory and Society, which has done much to develop and elaborate his views on critical theory. His views on rationality and criticism were influenced by the Frankfurt School, but his radical style and outlook were also shaped by C. Wright Mills. However, his concern for bureaucracy, power and knowledge reflected his debt to the Weberian tradition.