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The Renunciation of Robert E. Park: Myths about his Sociological Work

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Abstract

Three pernicious myths that have been perpetuated about Robert E. Park merit our present attention. These myths are important because they now foreclose almost any chance of him ever becoming recognized as the true progenitor of the interactionist school of thought or of latter-day sociologist from building on his work. The first myth, which lays the foundation for the other two, is that he was a social Darwinist. The second and third myths, which directly follow from the first one, are that Park concocted a racist and conservative sociology. An inquiry into his sociological works published over more than a quarter of a century, however, reveals that these myths are based more on fiction than fact. Although these myths are widely maintained among present-day sociologists, they appear to be driven more by prevailing ideology than supported by hard evidence (i.e. the full written record of what Park actually argued in his sociological publications). This confusion underscores the danger of advocacy research, an approach currently in vogue in the field of sociology.

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Acknowledgements

I am indebted to Richard Rhodes and Lawrence Nichols for instructive remarks on my a paper.

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Correspondence to Lonnie Athens.

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Athens, L. The Renunciation of Robert E. Park: Myths about his Sociological Work. Am Soc (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12108-019-09430-3

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Keywords

  • R.E. Park
  • Park’s conservatism
  • Park’s social Darwinism
  • Park’s racism