We have been doubly blessed ...
(Interview with Gary T. Marx; Professor Emeritus of
Sociology of MIT)
Gary T. Marx is Professor Emeritus of MIT. He has worked in the
areas of race and ethnicity, collective behavior and social
movements, law and society and surveillance studies. He is the
author of many books such as "Protest and Prejudice", "Undercover:
Police Surveillance in America" and "Collective Behavior and Social
Movements" and a lot of articles. He was one of the first students
of Prof. Smelser at The University of Berkeley.
Nasrin Pourhamrang: When did
you get acquainted with Prof. Smelser and for how many years have
you cooperated with him?
Which one of personality traits of Prof. smelser has drawn your
attention during those years?
NP: What prominent features can be found in Prof. Smelser's
personality which may serve as a model for young sociologists and
NP:Which of Prof. Smelser's theories are more effective for enriching and developing sociology?
GM: I think both his way of being in the world as a gentlemen, as a scholar, as one interested in and helpful to others and his approach with its breadth, integrative qualities, imagination, emphasis on the need to think conceptually to appreciate both structure and process and the importance of thinking about social topics in a systematic way which calls attention to their interdependence.
NP: As a
sociologist, do you have any objections to his theories and methods?
GM: In the beginning was pretty abstract ala the theories of Parsons and jargon filled, just too far removed from the empirical and was unclear to many what the concepts meant. He hasn’t revisited or revised his work and would be good to know how he looks back on it given all the changes in last 50 years. His balance and moderation sometimes makes it hard to know where he stands or what re policy ought to be done. That is an occupational hazard that comes with being smart and listening to many points of view and realizing how much the opinions we strongly hold are not based on the empirical, or rather are not adequately based on that. I don't think it is a correct reading by in the later 1960s he was criticized for supposedly being unduly conservative and favoring social control of movements and taking an establishment point of view. But that is a misreading as his 1970 article "Two Critics in Search of a Bias" in the Annals of American Academy of Political and Social Science makes clear
you please recount one of your prominent and interesting memories
with Prof. Smelser?
NP: As an interdisciplinary researcher, what has been the legacy of Prof. Smelser in the University of Berkeley?
I can’t say he has probably trained
more leading US sociologists over the last 50 plus years than any
one else, has helped spread knowledge through his editing work and
the internat ency. of social science, his work in economic sociology
and in collective behavior was very innovative and influential. His
administrative work in helping build institutions in support of
social science is noteworthy, very involve in leadership roles
bolstering the socials sciences, university education and
NP:Thank you for accepting my invitation to take part in this interview.