Sociology and Scientism:

The case of William F. Ogburn

Robert C. Bannister

Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Society, 1988.

In his presidential address to the American Sociological Society in December 1929, William Fielding Ogburn told colleagues that sociology was "not interested" in improving the world. "Science is interested directly in one thing only, to wit, discovering new knowledge." This goal required a "wholly colorless literary style" and a rigorous method, preferably statistical. The truly scientific sociologist, a service intellectual rather than a policy maker, would not pretend to "guide the course of evolution," but rather would generate the "information necessary for such supreme direction to some sterling executive who will appear to do the actual guiding". Statistical and advisory, a truly scientific sociology would also be nominalist in its basic assumptions. Since society was simply a term for the collective responses of the individuals who comprised it, sociology should confine itself to the measurement and tabulation of environmental change and responses to it. [1]

Ogburn by this time was a leading proponent of a movement within American social science that had been building for more than a decade, alternately termed "neo-positivism," "objectivism," or, more pejoratively, "scientism." At its core, the objectivists held, not only that science can provide mankind with an all-embracing philosophy of life and the solution to all problems, but that the techniques used in the physical sciences can be used to solve any problem. Accordingly, those disciplines that do not use the same research techniques as the physical sciences are not really scientific. The sociologists' definition of "science" was not, of course, necessarily that which scientists themselves followed in their work, but rather that which Ogburn and others believed that they employed.[2] But in the enthusiasm of the moment, the finer points tended to get lost.

A scientific sociology , as thus defined, was to be "objective" in three quite special senses. First, it must confine itself to the observable externals of human behavior. This goal meant an end to the cataloguing of "feelings," "interests," or "wishes," a principal activity of pre-war sociologists.[3] Secondly, sociologists must apply rigorous methods in the production of social scientific knowledge. [4] Finally, sociologists should observe strict neutrality in matters of ethics and public policy.

From these premises certain predilections followed naturally, if not inevitably, specifically, a focus on individual behavior rather than on the formation and transformation of social structures; an emphasis on an inductive and incremental model of science; and, in the long run, a bureaucratic vision of team research and social science institutes.[5] In practice, objectivism translated into programs that ranged from educational testing to marriage counselling. Politically, it fueled demands for increasing "social control."

Since objectivity in one form or other had been a professional norm since the earliest days of sociology, these maxims and the assumptions behind them were not entirely new. What distinguished Ogburn and his disciples was the extreme to which they took them, and, in particular, the extreme to which they took the premise that human volition and the subjective consciousness have no place in social science. Underlying earlier studies of "interests" (Small), "likemindedness" (Giddings), and even "instincts" lay the assumption that a connection existed between human feelings and values and the existing social order. For the earlier functionalists, social institutions arose to satisfy needs in ways compatible with the well being of individuals and group survival. Scientism, in contrast, repudiated not only the inner self, but all customary ways of doing and feeling. Objectivity lay, not simply in the lack of bias, but in the elimination of the psychological dimensions of experience, and finally of the willing, feeling self.[6]

Ogburn's prominence within the profession gave his pronouncements special weight.[7] Born and educated in the South, he had done his graduate work under Franklin Giddings at Columbia, and in 1911 earned his Ph.D. for a statistical study of child labor legislation. In Social Change (1922), he introduced the phrase "cultural lag. " During the 1920s, he represented sociology at the Social Science Research Council. In 1927 he joined the faculty at the University of Chicago, later chairing the sociology department during a period it which it produced more than a hundred Ph.D.s, including some of the leading quantifiers of the next generation. Ogburn's pioneering study of the 1928 election earned him a minor footnote in histories of quantitative social science.[8] From 1920 to 1926 he served as editor of the Journal of the American Statistical Association, and in 1931 was elected president of the Association. As research director of President Herbert Hoover's Committee on Social Trends, he played a pivotal role in producing the pathbreaking Recent Social Trends (1931). During the depression years, he served on several New Deal agencies. After World War II, he became one of the nation's best known analysts of the impact of technology on society.

Although he shunned controversy, Ogburn was and remains a controversial figure. During the thirties, humanists, pictured him as an uncritical apologist for technology, [9] while fellow sociologists, usually to the left, questioned the analytic utility and value neutrality of the "cultural lag" concept. [10] During the 1960s, New Left critics pictured him him as the archetypal "corporate liberal" and a chief architect, in one version, of the stripped-down, companionate family that promised, but did not finally provide, a haven from a heartless capitalism . [11] At best, Ogburn seemed to one latter-day quantifier to have been a "transitional" figure in the discipline's move from a "biological" to a more genuinely cultural analysis; from general theory to quantitative research; and from "social evolutionism" to a non-teleological positivism.[12]

Differences over Ogburn's reputation, in turn, reflect more general questions concerning the rise of sociological objectivism. The objectivists themselves, in the tradition of positivism since Comte, argued that the "logic" of science led inexorably from metaphysics to quantification, the image of a "transitional" Ogburn being an attenuated version of this position. More recently, historians of sociology have stressed the impersonal processes of the professionalization and bureaucratization of knowledge, or the rise of "corporatism" as chief factors. Although not rejecting these later explanations, this study of Ogburn's career attempts to place them against a broader background of social/psychological, religious , and intellectual factors that shaped the vision of key representatives of sociology's "second" generation who earned their doctorates on the eve of World War I.


Socially, objectivism was nourished by the fluidity and resulting absence of tradition and custom that characterized late 19th century American life, as the rise of a national economy and transportation network shattered what remained of provincial culture, social deference, and traditional values. Analysis of this situation in terms of "nostalgia" or loss of status (as Richard Hofstadter suggested a generation ago[13]) ignores the more basic lack of institutional density that in stable societies defines roles, mediates meanings, and induces the comfortable feeling that shared values are a natural and enduring aspect of the human condition. For founders like Small and Giddings, as for most of their middleclass contemporaries, socially secure and relatively comfortable upbringings muted the stark opposition of self and society, individual and nature. Significantly, the prewar sociologists who anticipated objectivism were also the most rootless: from Sumner, Ross, and Veblen in sociology to J.B. Watson in psychology.

Ogburn nicely fits the bill. Born and raised in a small Georgia town, he revered a past he never quite understood. His family on both sides traced its American ancestry to 17th century Virginia, a point of special pride to his mother. Both his parents remained close to brothers and sisters throughout their lives. Yet to Ogburn theirs seemed another world. "They lived in a face to face community," he wrote, using the phrase Charles H. Cooley had coined. "I have known the point intellectually, but I never quite got the feel of it. It is still something of a mystery."[14]

Ogburn's lineage alternately fascinated and embarrassed him. When at the faculty table at the University of Chicago someone casually asked him if a Miss Jane Ogburn were his sister, he answered, somewhat to his own surprise: "No, my original ancestor came over in 1658 [sic] and her original ancestor did not get here until 1684." Repeating the incident to Read Bain, he confided: "There were two or three men around the table whose fathers were born in Europe, and it did not take long for someone to crack down upon me with a remark about my blue blood, which increased my confusion." One day toward the end of his life, he spent an afternoon tracing the genealogy of one of his forebears, only to recognize the absurdity of the enterprise. Had not "modern studies" shown that one's personality was the product of the "social environment," he wondered? Had not the same studies "taken all--or nearly all meaning--from a study of ancestry?" [15]

Ogburn's own youth marked a sharp break from this family past. After his father died while he was quite young, his mother took in borders to make ends meet. "As a boy I carried a good deal of responsibility [and had] little money which I had to stretch for the family," he recalled. Under these circumstances, family pride became extreme sensitivity to reputation, and a compulsion to conform. On the streets of small-town Georgia, gossip was a deadly weapon, and a good name "the most valued of possessions."[16]

In later years, Ogburn's concern for normality and his distrust of eccentricity amounted to an obsession. "The truth is I love (I think) to be ordinary, to be like my fellow man, not to be an extreme deviate," he once wrote in his private journal. This view shaped his attitudes toward matters great and small. Of success in one's career, he commented:

...all 'big shots' do things appropriately. But a sense of appropriateness is a distinct asset....I have known a few people who might have been 'big shots' if they had not been awkward, inept, and given to saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

After an evening in the company of Edward Ross and his new wife, he commented: "Nothing queer or eccentric about either." And of a Christmas card from a friend: "less eccentric than any they have sent." In a self-critical mood, he speculated that this same attitude probably explained his penchant for research that earned prestige rather than money, when more profitable opportunities beckoned. "The big idea is that we do the things that are highly socially valued. And research is the goal we must all strive for".[17]

Like other objectivists Ogburn translated this concern for reputation into the view that human behavior was a "response to stimulus," rather than the organization of habits around a preexisting or socially-created self. "All members of the human species do not respond exactly to the same material stimulus," he noted. But all actions are nonetheless "responses to stimuli." So persuaded, he sometimes spoke of himself and his professional activities as objects over which he had little control. Despite sometimes frenetic professional activity, he frequently commented on his lack of "ambition." Rather, he was "driven on by a sense of duty, or in response to the general idea, inculcated in youth, to do the immediate job ahead, rather well....But no great ego, no great desire to leave my mark on the world".[18]

In later years, Ogburn likewise ascribed his success to circumstance rather than to effort or ambition, despite the fact that both were considerable. Although he owed his appointment at Columbia in 1922 in part to the efforts of Elizabeth B.F. Baker, an economist who joined the Bernard department the same year, he attributed it to the impersonal working of "social forces" whose time had come. "The fact that I was offered a professorship at Yale on the same day that I received the offer from Columbia should be considered evidence on this point."[19] Similarly, he credited his position on the S.S.R.C. and other professional bodies less to his own efforts than to the good fortune of being in the "right group" at the right time. ("In their passion for democracy, for egalitarianism, and for race equality," sociologists too often overlook the fortuitous, he once commented).[20]

As a southerner, when such things mattered even more than today, Ogburn also inherited other traditions that seemed somehow archaic in the New Era of the 1920s--"regarding women, chivalry, honor, money, courage, etc." Like many of his generation, he absorbed these virtues from reading the Victorians--Thackeray, Dickens, and especially Sir Walter Scott. "One ideal I recall was that it was not good for a strong man to talk much," he added. "A brave, courageous man was a man of few words. Too much talk was feminine. To be garrulous was to be a sissy." Remembering this wisdom, Ogburn years later urged fellow-sociologists to cultivate a no-frills literary style and to eschew the conventional graces.[21]

For the rest of his years, Ogburn's life was a battle between illusion and reality, youthful ideals and a world that that seemed to render them meaningless. Nowhere was this more pronounced than in his view of women. As a southerner, he got a double dose of the Victorian cult of true womanhood. "I started off in my youth with a strong sense of chivalry," he remembered. "I never had any sisters and I reverenced my mother." Converted to feminism, he supported total sexual equality, but premised on the belief that women were "unselfish angels." Reality eventually checked this fantasy. Many modern women were "narcissistic, self-centered--interested only in themselves," he decided. Although they demanded equality, most women wanted men "to dominate them, to take responsibility, even to bully them." The result of this realization was a frank lament: "Here I have been treating them as superior beings who want freedom and rights! But so many of them do not." In face of the erosion of traditional sex roles, "facts" were sternly masculine, and "speculation" a dangerous feminine allurement.[22]

During the progressive era, Ogburn, in his way, became something of a rebel. Leaving home in 1901, he studied at nearby Mercer College , where he developed a fascination for "wilderness"--whether embodied in wild animals, primitive men, or even the wanderings of gypsies and hoboes. As with several other leading objectivists, although with less scandalous effect, his rebellion focused on "restrictions on sex." As he later recalled : "Freedom of speech or thought never bothered me. I think I rebelled against sham, against pretense, against conventional morality." Yet wilderness, and the freedom it promised, was as frightening as it was fascinating. He finally decided that it was not the "wilderness of sex" he wanted, but a "better code."

A trip to Paris in 1906, Ogburn's first outside Georgia, brought him face to face with the perils of liberation. "I was young, naive, modest, not self-assertive, well-mannered and reasonably normal," he recalled.

I met many queer characters who were egotistical, self-centered or loved power who bullied me with their views, the like of which I had never heard, because I was a listener, not self-assertive and had good manners...There were Russians, poets, artists, Jews, anarchists, socialists, social workers, English, French, etc. But nearly all queer.

During his stay he was drawn irresistibly to art, and spent thirty successive days in the Louvre. But the beauty there also frightened him. "It was an unreal, a dream world, the world of beautiful pictures," he later wrote. "Afterward when I began my long fight for reality, I was always a bit afraid to visit the Louvre again, afraid that I might become intoxicated, and take a long flight from reality again."[23]

Whether this reference was to a real or metaphoric breakdown, Ogburn gradually began to structure a rigid separation between his public and private self. For the sociologist, exact measurement was an antidote to illusion, statistics the basis of a "better code." Professionalism provided rules for the office, but not for the home. "Very definitely, I would like to confine my peculiarities which are due to my occupation, to my hours of duty on the job," he resolved upon his retirement. Like many Americans in the twenties, the private Ogburn developed a passion for sports. He loved boxing and baseball, and had a passion for tennis, which he played regularly until his death. However, he never let himself go completely. Although he loved sporting events, he once commented, "I hardly ever go. I have the technique of denial down pretty well."[24]

Although coming from different regions and social class, other leading objectivists experienced a similar disjuncture between past and present, self and the world. As a group, their backgrounds were significantly different from the comfortable middle class ones of most eastern and midwestern progressive reformers half a generation or more older: F. Stuart Chapin, the descendent of many generations of New York patricians whose fortunes were temporarily in decline; Luther L. Bernard, the son of a neer-do-well West Texas farmer; Read Bain, born in backwoods Oregon, raised by a divorced mother and her paramour, then "psychologically adopted (as he later put it) by an older woman following his own mother's premature death; and George Lundberg, born in rural South Dakota of a Swedish immigrant women who was herself an orphan. Whereas the celebration of "community" and "social cohesion"--the language of Charles Horton Cooley and likeminded progressives--incorporated a nostalgic longing for a past social order, the objectivists language of efficiency and social engineering judged the past to be irredeemably irrelevant. [25]


Objectivism was also a chapter in the transformation of American Protestantism, although in ways different than in most account of the clerical connections of many early American sociologists. Viewed superficially, objectivism would appear to be resolutely irreligious. Most objectivists were distinguished by their rejection of and/or indifference toward the religion of their youth. From Giddings onward, battles over scientific sociology pitted individuals who in one fashion or other had rejected their childhood religion against those who remained faithful to it.

Yet in more important respects, objectivism owed a great deal to religion, and more specifically, to the Calvinist strain within American Protestantism. On the most obvious level, its vision of an "efficient" social order contained more than a little missionary zeal, while its celebration of "hard facts" and the "rigors" of research brought the Protestant Ethic into the era of modern professionalism. At a deeper level, the objectivist program, with its behaviorist assumptions, marked both a rejection of Christian conception ("soul" being translated to "self, "conscience" to consciousness") and a restatement of the Calvinist impulse to control. For provincials raised on the pieties of 19th century Calvinism, New York and Chicago about 1910 were scary places, rendering "consciousness" not less than "conscience" a problem. By explaining human activity in terms of stimulus and response, objectivism subtly relieved urban newcomers of moral responsibility. At the same time, the reification of behavior (whether one's own or of others) allowed objectivists to control an otherwise threatening situation. Thus, in a sense, they enjoyed the special pleasure of playing God while denying His existence.[26]

Finally, and more speculatively, Calvinism (as opposed to other traditions of natural theology or rational religion) disposed its practitioners to accept the idea that there was an order in the universe despite the fact that its "causes" good not be immediately known.So disposed, Ogburn and other leading objectivists (notably Giddings and Chapin) were more inclined to take Darwinian selectionism more seriously than, for example, did Small or Sumner. From it they proceed to a nominalist and statistical conception of natural and social law, the fundamental premise of their objectivism.[27]

Since Ogburn was virtually silent concerning his religious background, and spoke of religion less frequently than most objectivists, evidence for this interpretation is admittedly indirect in his case: his Georgia background and early training at the Baptist Mercer College; the missionary zeal he brought to the cause and his dogged sense of duty and determined self-denial; his tendency to speak of his professional self as a product of circumstance rather than of volition, while privately he sought emotional outlets in exotic travel, and even fiction writing under a nom de plume. To these things one should add his steady intellectual development from the social selectionism of his doctoral thesis to his emphasis on statistics, a subject too complex to be discussed here.[28] In a general way, Ogburn himself in his later years confessed that he was not as far removed from religion as he had imagined. "My worship of statistics has a somewhat religious nature, " he noted in his journal at a time when his enthusiasm was fading. Statistics had been his God. "But God only meets an emotional need which has little to do with reason."[29]



Objectivism, thirdly, was a by-product of the professionalization of scholarship, although not the only or the inevitable one. Among the many impulses that shaped 19th century professionalism, a prominent one, as Burton Bledstein has argued, was the desire to consolidate and control. From their fascination with "words" (the jargon of the different specialities) to their claims of autonomy," professionals embodied the Victorian effort "to set apart, regulate, and contain" the different elements of an increasingly chaotic experience, and to transcend the partisan strife that threatened to destroy society and to undermine the recently-won power of the WASP middle class. Offering more than psychic comfort (although this too), the all-embracing standard of science, in Bledstein's words, "provided the raison d'etre of the middle class...and justified its standard of living."[30]

Viewed in this light, Ogburn's objectivism appears, in one sense, to have been an extreme of professionalism, indeed almost a caricature of its open-ended demand for work, organized procedures for obtaining credentials, and claim of disinterested service. But the objectivists sharp distinction between public and private, and the fact that the objectivists in their private lives were less than the model of professional rationality, suggest that this regimen exacted its own price. At its most benign, the professionals' bifurcation of self into public and private, scientist and citizen led to escapes in poetry, painting, sports, or travel. At its worst, the jargon of objectivity and disinterested activity masked chaotic inner lives that led Ogburn at one point to psychoanalysis and another prominent objectivist to compulsive philandering. For the "profession" as a whole, the pretense of superior rationality, as Read Bain finally observed, did not rule out often vicious squabbling and backbiting.

The institutionalization and specialization of scholarship, first within the university and later within foundation-sponsored institutes, also played a part. Within the universities, several factors together narrowed the scope of the discipline, including the need to defend and define the newcomer against the other social sciences (a circumstance that differed from one university to another); the need to devise easily reproducible "methods" for the training of graduate students, as early evident in the case of Giddings; and perhaps even the practical realization that grand theory on the style of Spencer or Ward assumed more knowledge that the average undergraduate commanded in the age of free electives.

In choosing Columbia for graduate work, Ogburn found himself in an environment where these narrowing tendencies were well advanced. A highly-professionalized faculty, and an interest in statistics antedated the establishment of sociology in the early 1890s. Ogburn's mentor Giddings in his Inductive Sociology (1901) produced one of the earliest research manuals for graduate students. In the decade before the war, Giddings imposed rigid research models on his doctoral students, first in a series of community studies, and later in quantitative studies of social issues, of which Ogburn's thesis was a prime example.

Progressivism and then war offered Ogburn and other members of their still-fragile discipline both incentive and opportunity to prove their professionalism and public worth, again as illustrated particularly in Ogburn's case.[31] Teaching at Reed and the University of Washington during the war years, Ogburn honed his statistical skills in various studies of public affairs. The existence of such new procedures as the initiative and referendum, whatever the outcome of the elections, provided a chance to gather data on an unprecedented scale. For one study, Ogburn generated statistics on voting in more than twenty counties on one hundred and three issues over a four-year period. In 1919, he spent a year working for the Cost of Living Section of the National War Labor Board and the Bureau of Statistics travelling up and down the West Coast surveying industry, labor, and social conditions. "The usefulness of statistics," he later noted with characteristic understatement, "was very apparent during the war." [32]

During the 1920s, Ogburn's association with the Social Science Research Council helped refine his nominalist conception of the discipline. Established in 1923, the S.S.R.C. had two basic objectives: to foster empirical, inductive "scientific" research and to break down the barriers that divided the disciplines. In theory, the two might appear contradictory: the first looking to narrow and more specialized studies, the second premised on the ideal of the unity of knowledge. In practice, however, the two converged in a nominalist definition of science: the unity of the social sciences lay in their "methods" rather than their material. There was integration, one political scientist explained, but it was an "integration along new scientific and methodological lines." [33] In the S.S.R.C., this maxim was effectively institutionalized.

The emergence of objectivism, however, also underlines the danger of a too-exclusive emphasis on the professionalization-institutionalization model, particularly in unilinear versions that typically overestimate the strength and success of the process.[34]For the 1880s, evidence of this weakness may be seen in the dream of economists and others of professional associations modeled on the German Verein fur Sozialpolitik, which would oppose strict definitions of science on their disciplines. In the case of economics, and in such departments as Small's at John's Hopkins, the dream quickly gave way to decentralized and diverse organization. Future sociologists coexisted with historians, and remained yoked to economists, however uneasily, for almost two decades. As a result, sociology remained imperfectly professionalized through the interwar period: uncertain of its boundaries, sensitive to attack, and a tempting target for any group that wished to promote a new paradigm.

Objectivism, rather than being the end product of a unilinear professionalization, was a symptom of this volubility. American sociology began as a discipline with no agreed-upon theory or coherent research area; it never dropped the appeal to utility; and it altered its initial boundaries in dramatic ways, first in the triumph of the "group" concept in the 1910s, later with the ascendency of structural-functionalism in the 1950s, and finally with the near-anarchy that has obtained since the 1960s. Ogburn's bid to redefine the discipline in the 1929 presidential address to the A.S.S. was one of many that had wracked the discipline since its founding. In the end, the attempt to impose restrictive definitions of sociology within the A.S.S during the 1930s finally came up against the same centripetal forces that earlier kept American scholarship from developing along European lines.


Political disillusion and alienation completed Ogburn's conversion to the service-intellectual conception of social science. Although in his youth he resisted the pat formulations of self-proclaimed reformers, he became something of a radical during his West Coast days--celebrating the "Oregon system" of direct democracy, and even showing enthusiasm for the Wobblies. In his classroom he preached the economic interpretation of history, then as now a standard item in the arsenal of the left. [35] .

During the war years, however, the several components of this would-be radicalism gradually dissolved. The first tests of the initiative and referendum in Oregon yielded prohibition and anti-immigration laws, both signs of reaction, and hence a blow to his faith in direct democracy. A study of the opinions of different social classes on public issues convinced him that Wobbly predictions of imminent class warfare were unfounded. Wartime passions and propaganda then destroyed what remained of his belief in human rationality, the premise of his economic interpretation of history. [36]

This disillusion, in turn, set the stage for Social Change (1922), his best-known book. Ogburn's starting point was the apparent contradiction between the model of human rationality implicit in the economic interpretation and mounting evidence of irrationality. Following Freud, he initially decided that economic motives, like sexual impulses, were hidden or disguised, an example being the wartime use of the I.W.W. as a scapegoat. But, as he thought about it, he decided that the time factor was more important than the disguise factor. That is, the conflict between economic interests and announced motives was not the product of self-deception based on unconscious drives, but of different rate of change among the several elements that made up "culture." Hence, the widespread view that "women's place is in the home" was not an unconscious rationalization of (disguised) male economic privilege, but the result of a gap between traditional cultural values and the technological realities that made them outmoded. This gap he termed "cultural lag."

For present purposes, this formulation was important because it implied that sociologists should henceforth devote their energies to measuring rates of change in different areas of human activity, rather than to constructing grand theories of evolution or of the ideal society. Such was the theory that ultimately led to Ogburn's 1929 address to the A.S.S.

Politically, Social Change was also ambivalent when measured by prewar standards of reform as revealed by the fact that some readers attempted to give it a reformist interpretation while others criticized its technological determinism and apparent fatalism.[37] Ogburn's proposals, although "fragmentary" by his own admission, in fact looked neither to social justice or governmental controls, on the one hand, nor to rugged individualism and laissez faire, on the other, but rather to the good life in a well-adjusted, consumer-oriented, leisured society. More enlightened attitudes toward sex, perhaps earlier sex education, might relieve "psychoses and neuroses," he speculated. The sublimation of sexual energies into creative activities, and an increase in sports and recreation, would also help. Whereas earlier progressives had urged the channeling of private passion into public projects (Lester Ward, for example), Ogburn argued, in effect, that Americans should frankly accept the separation of public and private sphere. In the modern world, recreation and sexual fulfillment would foster adjustment to a situation one could or would not change.

What did this posture mean in practice? An illuminating if limited answer can be found in an interesting confession Ogburn later made in his journal concerning his dealings with Jews, a number of whom were already prominent within the profession.Seeing discrimination during his Columbia years, he spent "great gobs of time" helping Jews obtain jobs and fellowships. But their "aggression, ego, contempt, etc." soon got under his skin. Invited to dinner parties, he would wonder "if Mr. ___, a Jew, would be there, or Prof. ___, a Jew was invited. If so, I braced myself for a bad time." Finally, he asked himself "why I have to be so damned nice to the Jews if I do not enjoy them". At the same time, he realized how unjust it was to endow "the individual with the traits of the race."[38]

Faced with this dilemma, a 19th century liberal ideally might have reread John Locke on "natural rights," or quoted the Declaration of Independence. Ogburn instead took a poll. Listing thirty-five Jews he had known at Columbia and at Chicago, and a random list of thirty-five non-Jews, he compared the two for ten to fifteen objectional traits often attributed to Jews. The result showed that 85 percent of the Jews had the traits, but only 15 percent of the non-Jews. "So I declared my independence of my conscience about the Jews," he concluded this tortured dairy entry. "And I am not 'nice,' to those I don't like, no matter how much I sympathize, or how well I understand how they got that way."[39]

Ogburn's response to Hitler and fascism raised further questions concerning the ideological payoff of his "objectivity." Although there exists little direct evidence of Ogburn's position on the issue during the late 1930s, indirect evidence suggests that some colleagues felt that he was soft on fascism. "The consensus expressed about you was that your professional career...has been seriously marred and your reputation injured by your non-belief in democracy and your obsession with [and] your fondness and admiration for totalitarian dictatorships," one former student wrote him after the war, shocked to hear him being so criticized during a Princeton conference. "Your friends cited the fact that you seemed to be pro-Nazi in the late thirties, even up to Pearl Harbor. They now say you are just as strongly in favor of the Soviets, and that you evidently adhere to a totalitarian form of government." Nor was she comforted when another friend defended Ogburn, saying he was reported as pro-Nazi "merely because of the absurd notion you had that you could view objectively a war in which the world was involved, and remain neutral."[40]

Although the letter shocked Ogburn ("jerked me up quick"), his explanations in his diary left the cloud hanging. He did admire organization and efficiency: he did despise hatred even when directed against Hitler. At a meeting in June 1942 to hear the impressions of a former head of the Associated Press in Berlin, for example, he found himself marvelling at the skill of the Nazi propaganda machine ("not admiration of course for the end, but for the means"). While others listened "with contempt, disgust, and horror," he reflected to himself that the propaganda minister was only doing what every family, fraternity, and college does in indoctrinating its members.[41]Was he "psychotic?" Was he "in any way abnormal?" No, he decided. But he disliked seeing his colleagues "so emotional and so hating. And then there was that lonely feeling."[42]

Was Ogburn thus an antisemite or pro-fascist? Certainly not in the sense that he openly supported anti-democratic causes or espoused anti-liberal ideas. During the depression years, he worked tirelessly for numerous New Deal agencies and privately (although not publicly) developed great admiration for Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. But his journal confessions alone suggest that he himself was aware that his objectivist principles had eroded his liberalism: in its implicit preference for order over freedom, its focus on efficiency over humanity, and its substitution for probability predictions for self-evident natural or moral laws.

What finally of "corporatism?"[43] If Ogburn was not pro-fascist noropenly antidemocratic did he not serve, and even help create through he work on the S.S.RC., the foundations and New Deal agencies the alliance between business, government, and the university intelligensia which the critics of corporatism denounce? If one may distinguish "corporatism" as conscious policy from its de facto emergence in the interwar years, the answer in Ogburn's case is not guilty on the first count, although probably guilty by association on the second.Since Ogburn insisted that the sociologist qua scientist should make no policy recommendations, he scarcely qualifies as a corporatist theorist. After a year with the National Recovery Administration, for example, he reported that government-business cooperation was a prominent feature of the early New Deal, even speculating that it might be the wave of the future. But he also reported in objective fashion that it raised the perennial question of the balance between freedom and order, an issue upon which he would venture no opinion. [44]

Guilt by association may be another matter, at least to the degree that a case can be made the the foundations and the academic "experts" they sponsored were an integral part of New Era capitalism. Social Change, as noted above, also provided a blueprint for a consumerist, leisured society adjusted to the technological imperatives of modern industry. The irony, of course, was that this blueprint in Ogburn case was the work of a displaced southerner suspended between traditions he loved but would not accept, and an order he accepted but would not love. Carrying this analysis further, one might argue that it was no coincidence that Ogburn and his fellow objectivists stood ready and willing to serve the functions they did in the world of government and the foundations, or that their work, indirectly at least, hould have shaped the corporatist, consumerist order since the same forces that produced this order were responsible for the social and cultural crisis that gave rise to their objectivism in the first place.

For present purposes, however, the central point is that the quest for objectivity as represented by Ogburn was not an inevitable unforlding of the "logic" of science, but a product of historical forces that converged on the generation that came of age intellectually on the eve of World War I. Objectivity, that is, has a history no less than other chapters in human history, although some sociologists continue to reisist the point.

Although Ogburn enjoyed professional success and prestige until his death in 1959, and the positivist spirit he represented has scarcely disappeared from American sociology, the Second World War cast a pall over the extreme and often naive scientism of the interwar period, just as the First World War had contributed to its rise.Since he 1960s, numerous charges were levelled against the entire objectivist program: that it ignored the realities of power, exploitation, and conflict; that it narrowed the focus of sociology to parochial and often trivial concerns; and that it failed to see the cultural; class, and, most recently, gender biases of its own ideal of objectivity. Whether or not one accepts this indictment, this essay has attempted to identify the rather special conditions in the shaping of modern America that produced this chapter in American thought. Whether these conditions have changed significantly, and with them the assumptions they bred, remains an open question.

[1] William F.Ogburn, "The Folkways of a Scientific Sociology," Scientific Monthly 30 (1930), 300-306. For "realism" and "nominalism" in sociology, see Robert E. Park and Ernest Burgess, Introduction to the Science of Society (Chicago, 1921), pp. 36-44; J. David Lewis and Richard L. Smith, , American Sociology and Pragmatism (Chicago, 1980), chap. 6; Christopher G. Bryant, Positivism in Social Theory and Research (London, 1985), pp. 4-5.

[2] Freidrich von Hayek, The Counterrevolution of Science (Glencoe, Ill. 1952), p. 1

[3] For elaboration of this point see Anthony Giddens ed. , Positivism and Sociology pp. 3-4; and Bryant, Positivism, pp. 1-10.

[4] For example see Read Bain, "Trends in American Sociology," pp. 413-22, quoted in Bryant, Positivism, pp. 4-5.

[5] Bryant, Positivism, pp. 141-45.

[6] For discussion of the confusion between "bias" and "psychological" in definitions of "subjectivity" see Richard S. Rudner, Philosophy of Social Science (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1966), pp. 73-83.

[7] On Ogburn's career see Duncan, ed. Ogburn: On Cultural and Social Change}, pp. vii-xxii; Toby E. Huff, "Theoretical Innovation in Science," American Journal of Sociology 79 (1973), 261-77; Don Martindale, The Nature and Types of Sociological Theory, (London , 1961), pp. 324-330.

[8] Ogburn, "A Measurement of Factors" Social Forces 8 (1929-30), 175-83; Gary Easthope, A History of Social Research Methods (London, 1974), pp. 114-19, 133-34, 145-46; and Heinz Maus, A Short History of Sociology (Eng. edn. London, 1962). pp. 136-38.

[9] Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization (New York, 1934), pp. 316-17.

[10] Michael Choukas, "The Concept of Cultural Lag," American Sociological Review 1 (1936), 752-60; Henry F. Frost, "Functionalism in Anthropology and Sociology," Sociology and Social Research 23 (1939), 373-79; Abbott Herman, "The Answer to Criticism of the Lag Concept," American Journal of Sociology 43 (1937), 440-51; John H. Mueller, "Present Status of the Cultural Lag Concept," American Sociological Review 3 (1938), 320-27; T.G. Standing, "A Critique of the Concept of Cultural Lag," Social Science 14 (1959), 144-55; Joseph Schneider, "Cultural Lag," American Sociological Review 10 (1945), 786-91; James W. Woodward, "Critical Notes on the Nature of Sociology," Social Forces 11 (1932-33), 388-98, and "A New Classification of Culture," American Sociological Review 1 (1936), 89-102.

[11] Herman and Julia R. Schwendinger, Sociologists of the Chair (New York, 1974), 460-62; Christopher Lasch, in a Heartless World (New York, 1977), pp. 37-38. See also Stuart Ewen, Captains of Consciousness (New York, 1976), pp. 120, 135, 164, 178.

[12] Martindale, Nature and Types, p. 326.

[13] Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform (New York, 1955).

[14] Ogburn , "Journal," November 27, 1952, November 30, 1942, William F. Ogburn Papers, University of Chicago [hereafter WFO].

[15] Ogburn to Bain, January 9, 1934, RB; "Journal," November 3, 1946, November 30, 1942, WFO.

[16] Ibid., November 30, 1942.

[17] Ibid., June 4, 1946, January 17, 1949, December 26, 1946, March 11, 1948.

[18] Ibid., August 2, 1952, July 4, 1946.

[19] Ibid. August 14, 1955, WFO.

[20] Ibid. Cf. Edward Lee Thorndike, "Autobiography," in p. 27: "Obviously I have not 'carried out my career,' as the biographers say. Rather it has been a conglomerate amassed under the pressure of varied opportunities and demands." Thorndike was a Columbia educational psychologist and proto-behaviorist.

[21] Ibid., March 24, 1944. E.T. Thompson, a graduate student of Ogburn spoke frankly of his own experience in this regard: ..."I sort of turned against everything southern I could think of....That was part of my excess zeal to be objective." Thompson, [interview], March 27, 1972, p. 9, Sociology Department Archives, University of Chicago .

[22] Ogburn, "Journal," March 12, 1948.

[23] Ibid., July 15, 1950. Ibid. July 15, 1950.

[24] Ibid., March 22, 1947, August 4, 1946.

[25] On the several "languages" of progressivism see Daniel Rodgers, "In Search of Progressivism," Reviews in American History 11 (1982), 123-27.

[26] For this analysis as applied to J.B. Watson, see David Bakun, "Behaviorism and American Urbanization," Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 2 (1966), 5-25; Paul Creelan, "Watsonian Behaviorism and the Calvinist Conscience," ibid 10 (1974), 95-118; Ruth Leys, "Meyer, Watson, and the Dangers of Behaviorism, ibid 20 (1984), 128-49. In Sociology and Scientism (Chapel Hill, 1987), I extend this analysis to sociological objectivism more generally.

[27] On this point see J.R. Moore, The Post-Darwinian Controversies (Cambridge, England, 1978); Talcott Parsons, The Structure of Social Action (New York, 1937), pp. 113-17.

[28] For a full description see my Sociology and Scientism , pp. 166-68.

[29] Ogburn, "Journal," June 14, 1952, WFO.

[30] Bledstein, The Culture of Professionalism (New York, 1976), chs. 1-3.

[31] For an extended treatment of this theme see Carol Gruber, Mars and Minerva.. (Baton Rouge, La 1975).

[32] Ogburn, "The Political Thought of Social Classes," Political Science Quarterly 31 (1916), 300-17.

[33] Ronald Althouse, "Interview with William Anderson," ms. April 4, 1963, Chapin Papers, University of Minnesota.

[34] For the following I am indebted to H. Kuklick, "Restructuring the Past," Sociological Quarterly 21 (1980), 5-21.; John Higham, "The Matrix of Specialization," in The Organization of Knowledge, edited by Alexandra Oleson and John Voss (Baltimore, 1979), pp. 3-18.

[35] See Duncan ed. , Ogburn, p. ix; "Ogburn, "Methods of Direct Election in Oregon," Quarterly Publication of the American Statistical Association 14 (1914), 136-55; "Social Legislation on the Pacific Coast," Popular Science 86 (1915), 274-89.; "The Psychological Basis for the Economic Interpretation of History," American Economic Review 9 (1919), 302.

[36] Ogburn, "The Initiative and Referendum," Survey 33 (1915), 693-94; "The Political Thought of Social Classes," Political Science Quarterly 31 (1916), 300-17; "Bias, Psychoanalysis, and the Subjective," [1922], in

[37] Cf. E.A. Ross, The Principles of Sociology, (3rd edn., New York 1938), p. 113; and Floyd Allport, "Social Change," Social Forces 2 (1924), 671-76.

[38] Ogburn, "Journal," March 15, 1948, WFO.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Mary Sims Walker to Ogburn, quoted in Ogburn "Journal," May 8, 1947, WFO.

[41] Ibid. May 8, 1947; June 22, 1942.

[42] Ibid. , June 22, 1942, and July 10, 1942.

[43] On corporatism, as the term is used here, see E. Hawley, "The Discovery and Study of 'Corporate Liberalism,'" Business History Review 52 (1978), 309-20; R. Jeffrey Lustig, Corporate Liberalism (Berkeley, 1982).

[44] Ogburn, "Future of the New Deal," American Journal of Sociology 39 (1934), 842-48.

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