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The American Sociologist

, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 315–332 | Cite as

Toward an Integral, Professional-Public Sociology: The Example of Gordon W. Allport

  • Lawrence T. NicholsEmail author
Article

Abstract

There has been much recent debate within sociology regarding academic versus applied approaches, as well as how to integrate these during a career. Sociologists interested in such issues might find both inspiration and an exemplar in social psychologist Gordon W. Allport. Well known for his leadership role in both personality and psychological social psychology, Allport has still not gained widespread recognition for his sociological contributions, especially his “public sociology.” As an undergraduate, Allport embraced the tradition of “social ethics” as taught at Harvard, which focused on social problems and social policy, and on individual engagement. Over the first two decades of a half-century career, Allport adapted to his “hard science” organizational and professional contexts and earned a tenured position primarily by building up a naturalistic psychology. But beginning in the early 1940s, he increasingly re-engaged with social ethics and overt reform efforts, with a focus on the social psychology and sociology of rumor, prejudice and racial and religious discrimination. Though a key architect of the interdisciplinary Department of Social Relations, he came to see that project as excessively value-neutral and he lobbied to revive a clear ethical commitment. Fittingly, Allport ended his career as the first incumbent of the Richard Clarke Cabot Professorship of Social Ethics. In this way, he bridged naturalistic psychology, sociology and social ethics in order to create an integral science oriented toward social justice.

Keywords

Gordon W. Allport Harvard University Integral science Professional sociology Public sociology Social ethics 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The author thanks the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University for the recent sabbatical leave during which archival research for this article was conducted.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.West Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA

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