, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 5-14

Blumer’s dilemma: The critic as a tragic figure

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Herbert Blumer criticized sociological research for its failure to confront obdurate, empirical reality. However, Blumer conducted little research of his own. An examination of his works on crowds, fashion, and social problems reveals some of the same problems he found in others’ works. Blumer illustrates how critics risk becoming tragic figures, wedded to theoretical principles that cannot be put into practice.

Thanks to Irwin Deutscher, John Lofland, Kathleen Lowney, David Maines, and Robert Prus for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.