Alvin Ward Gouldner

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Alvin Ward Gouldner (July 29, 1920 – December 15, 1980) taught sociology at Antioch College (1952-1954) [1] and was professor of sociology at Washington University in St. Louis (1959–1967[citation needed]), at the University at Buffalo (1967–1972), President of the Society for the Study of Social Problems (1962), professor of sociology at the University of Amsterdam (1972–1976) and Max Weber Professor of Sociology at Washington University (from 1967). He was born in New York City.

His early works such as Patterns in Industrial Bureaucracy can be seen as important as they worked within the existing fields of sociology but adopted the principles of a critical intellectual. This can be seen more clearly in his 1964 work, Anti-Minotaur: The Myth of Value Free Sociology, where he claimed the sociology could not be objective and that Max Weber had never intended to make such a claim.

He is probably most remembered for his 1970 work The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology. This work 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. This book was used by many schools of sociology as analysis of their own theory and methods. Gouldner, however, was not the first sociologist to be critical of objective knowledge of society; see, for example, Adorno's Negative Dialectics.

Subsequently, much of Gouldner's work was concerned with critiquing modern sociology and the nature of the intellectual. He argued that ideology often produced false premises and was used as a tool by a ruling elite and that, therefore, critical subjective thought is much more important than objective thought.

Major works[edit]

  • 1954 Patterns of Industrial Bureaucracy
  • 1964 Anti-Minotaur: The Myth of Value-Free Sociology
  • 1967 Enter Plato
  • 1970 The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology
  • 1976 The Dialectic of Ideology and Technology
  • 1979 The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class
  • 1980 The Two Marxisms [1]
  • 1984 Against Fragmentation

Patterns of Industrial Bureaucracy (1954)[edit]

Gouldner lead an ethnographic study in a mine and identified there various patterns of bureaucracy and bureaucratization. He analyzed how, after the appointment of a new manager the bureaucratization process emerged.[2] Gouldner identified three types of bureaucracy in his studies, with very specific patterns:

  • Mock bureaucracy: this type comes from outside agency and is implemented officially, but not in daily behaviors. Both management and workers agree in this case to act the same way. The rules are not enforced in this case, neither by management, nor by the workers. No conflict seem to emerge in this case. “Smoking” is in this case seen as inevitable. The no-smoking rule is an example of mock-bureaucracy.
  • Representative bureaucracy: both management and workers enforced this rule and it generated very few tensions. In this context, the focus was on the education of workers as management considered them as ignorant and careless regarding security rules. The safety program is an example of representative. Meetings happened regularly to implement this program and it was as well the occasion to voice some concerns for workers. For the management, this program was a way to tighten the control over workers.
  • Punishment-centered bureaucracy: this type of program was initiated by management and generated many tensions. Management viewed workers as deliberately willing to be absent. Therefore, punishment was installed in order to force the workers not to be absent. For example, the “no-absenteism” rule is an example of the punishment-centered bureaucracy.

Background assumptions[edit]

Referencing Gouldner, Michael Parenti said, "Our tendency to accept a datum or argument as true or not depends less on the content and substance of it, than it does on how congruent it is with the background assumptions we already have. But those background assumptions are of course established by the whole climate of opinion, the whole universe of communication that we are immersed in constantly here, which is why dissidents learn the discipline of fighting and developing their arguments from evidence, while those who work within the safe mainstream work a whole lifetime with unexamined assumptions and presumptions."

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Antioch College per Archivist S. Sanders 2013
  2. ^ Patterns of industrial bureaucracy, p.216-217 (1954)