Sociology Index

Alvin Ward Gouldner

Among distinguished sociologists, Alvin Ward Gouldner was professor of sociology at Washington University (1959-67). Professor of sociology at Amsterdam (1972-76) and Max Weber Professor of Sociology at Washington University (from 1967).

His early works Patterns of Industrial Bureaucracy (1954) and Wildcat Strike (1955h) explored aspects of Max Weber's theory of bureaucracy in relation to strikes, management aud control. He 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, he founded the influential journal Theory and Society, which has done much to develop and elaborate his views on critical theory.

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). He called upon sociologists to be more reflexive about their theories and role in society in The Dialectic of Ideology and Technology (1976).

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.