‘Disciplinarization’ of Sociology in the Mid-Twentieth Century
At the same time, however, some prominent sociological theorists also explored the viability of interdisciplinary projects. At Harvard University, Talcott Parsons co-founded in 1946 the Department of Social Relations for Interdisciplinary Social Science Studies, a collaboration among three social science departments at Harvard University (anthropology, psychology, and sociology). Harvard’s “yellow book”, Toward a General Theory of Action, had to lay the groundwork for this project. In Chicago, Edward Shils later spoke of the “indissoluble tie” between sociology and the humanities. A number of his projects, including the interdisciplinary journals Comparative Studies in Society and History and Minerva, were instrumental in distributing and testing this view.
On the basis of detailed archival research, primarily in the Talcott Parsons Archives at Harvard University and the Edward Shils Archives in Chicago, this paper will look at shifting disciplinary and transdisciplinary projects in sociology. The focus will be on mid-twentieth-century diagnoses of the “present state of sociology,” the forms of institutional support then available for disciplinary and interdisciplinary projects, and the lasting effects of the choices made at that time.