The Anthem Companion to Robert K. Merton

AHP readers may be interested in the forthcoming volume: The Anthem Companion to Robert K. Merton edited by Charles Crothers & Lorenzo Sabetta and assisted by Larry Stern. The book is described as follows:

Why is Robert K. Merton important? Many treatments of RKM focus only on particular components whereas, in fact, his work is far wider and can be summarised for each of his decades of work: 1920s (i.e., childhood), 1930s (anomie, science, unanticipated), 1940s (housing studies, mass communications, structural-functional analysis, professions, focus groups), 1950s (reference groups), 1960s (ambivalence), and later decades (structural analysis, sociological semantics, cultural sociology).

RKM particularly contributed to sociology during a period when several specialties were being set up and yet his work spans both general and specialist sociologies. He is recognised as the father of anomie/strain theory; focus groups; sociology of science; role-set theory; analytical sociology; structural-functional analysis; ambivalence studies; and sociological semantics. In this sense, many commentaries on sociology lament the ways it has slumped into a wide range of threads with not much of a core holding it together. RKM’s work always endeavoured to keep the multifarious threads of sociology together, and we might usefully learn from this.

RKM stood at the junction of many other crossroads in sociology and moreover endeavoured to create bridges between these, but more importantly to help launch research programmes along some of these paths. His work links classical and modern sociology; U.S. and European sociology; theory and research; philosophy of social science and applied sociology; pure academic sociology and applied sociology; cognitive and social; social sciences and humanities; and social sciences and science. This book will examine each of these and relate each to the others.

Because RKM’s work spanned so many paths not many were alert to the overall architecture of his work and perhaps its visibility thereby waned. His viability is relatively less because of an astute but seldom invigorated writing style that led to some blandness. Several of the programmes he helped launch are surprisingly no longer seen as mainstream sociology, for example, media studies, criminology, possibly even science studies which has had the effect of relatively decreasing his visibility in sociology while increasing it in other areas.

RKM had a major effect on the baby boomer generation of sociology who joined the ranks of sociology at a time of great expansion of university positions across many developed countries. Other generations since have been less exposed to his work. The book will repair the breach in attention to his work that arise from the above-mentioned reasons.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.