THE BLACK AMERICAN IN SOCIOLOGICAL THOUGHT by Stanford M. Lyman

THE BLACK AMERICAN IN SOCIOLOGICAL THOUGHT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Lyman (Univ. of Calif., La Jolle) takes most of his colleagues in sociology to task for myopically clinging to the tenets of the Chicago School as launched around the turn of the century by Robert Park and later extended and modified by Franklin Frazer, Louis Wirth, Talcott Parsons and others. Lyman argues that on the topic of race relations classic American sociology is hamstrung by evolutionist and Social Darwinist theories of which Park's ""Race-relations cycle"" has been the most influential and insidious. According to Park the cycle proceeds in four stages -- contact, conflict, accommodation and assimilation. Thus progress and meliorism have been taken for granted despite the fact that empirical research among Chinese as well as Negro subcultures has repeatedly failed to show the kind of ineluctable progression from disjunction to assimilation which the theory mandates. Lyman further complains that from Park to Parsons the mainstream of sociological thought tends toward a complacent acceptance of the status quo between blacks and whites: all is as it must be at this particular historical junction but inevitably ""interpersonal intimacy"" (or education, or rising wages) will act as the great solvent of prejudice--sooner or later stage four will be achieved. Lyman's conclusion is blunt: ""The sociology of the black has not yet begun."" As a jumping off point he proposes the historical approach of Robert Nisbet, Frederick Teggart, et. al. The prevalent Aristotelian notions of social change which assume continuous evolution from the simple to the complex and the undifferentiated to the differentiated must be radically overhauled to incorporate such change factors as fixity or persistence in human affairs, crisis and catastrophe, discontinuity and open-ended or non-directional change. Only when this has been done can a viable theory of race relations be formulated. Most of this will be too abstruse for the layman but Lyman's root and branch critique of his cohorts may make them sit bolt upright.

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 1972
Publisher: Putnam