Academic market

In trying to promote this site I went to the logical medium, theChronicle of Higher Education.  They said ‘tough luck’, we only do news.  I can’t figure out a way to make news except when one of the interviewees dies.

The real problem is that people who are interested in broad knowledge across many disciplines are few and far between and are not organized in the United States into any coherent group or media focus.

The problem is both.  

Aside from my readers, there are probably only a few people who have a broad intellectual curiosity and the ability to search for that knowledge.    Maybe thousands or a few tens of thousands.  A tiny community.

Am I wrong?  Am I drawing the wrong conclusion from my experience?

Is there really a large group of people who are intellectually curious, intelligent enough to pursue academic level information and looking for an accessible source?  If so, can they be reached by any marketing approach, new or old?

Operational issues and technology

It has taken many months to add the major early interviews to this website.  

Radio technology changed dramatically over the 9 years this program was on the air.  In the beginning my Sony portable recorder was downloaded to a reel-to-reel tape for editing and uploading to the NPR satellite.  Then the recorder was uploaded to a DAT tape for editing and uploading to the NPR satellite.  In the final years the recorded interview was uploaded directly to a computer for editing and directly uploaded to the NPR satellite.

Turning each of these media into and MP3 has required a series of different programs.  In the case of the reel-to-reel tape, it was necessary to first warm and dry the tapes.  A slow proces.

There are still about ten early tapes that will be added in the coming months.


Communication and Media

The advent of mature television seems to have encouraged social thought. With many working in the field, M. Crispin Miller called attention to the way the television milieu created the design and environment of the 1970's shopping mall, and N. Postman showed that childhood television experience had nearly eliminated the popular conceptions of childhood as a time for learning, a conception that was left over from earlier literary periods. 


The Germans T. Adorno and G. Habermas extended the earlier positivist philosophy to cope with priority of personal perspective. Among many Americans who created the modern landscape of relativism one, Nelson Goodman, has focused on the way that the personal perspective can determine the nature of rightness and understanding. Such constructions are entirely imbedded in the worldview of individuals, and the ideas are connected directly to the values they hold which are, in turn, directly derived from social experience. P. Feyerabend has shown that no large-scale mental construction is possible; all proposed theories are merely lists of priorities derived directly from local experience.


Based in England, Mary Douglas developed the explicit tenets of social thought by showing that business organizations operate on metaphors of nature, such as right-handedness, and that the notion of a free market is dependent on the metaphor of an invisible hand. Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky showed that personal assessments of risk, such as risk in eating food with pesticides, are directly related to larger views of the world, specifically the moral validity of large business. Robert Bellah showed that concepts of American civil institutions were directly connected to Christian religious ideas and Jeffrey Alexander showed that debates about civil society are predicated on metaphors of honesty and group membership.


Summarizing the work of many field specialists, including Brent Berlin and Eleanor Rosch, George Lakoff established the direct connection of ideal conceptions and metaphors to the structure of everyday words. He showed that meaning for words such as blue, chair, over and above are derived from idealized conceptions and metaphors. Over is derived from a metaphor of a surface with a cylinder rising from an object. He showed that words such as love are based on metaphors of a journey. The institution of language is an as- semblage of specifically perceived and widely, but not overtly, recognized concepts and metaphors.  


In the early 1960's, E.R. Leach and Claude Levi-Straus laid the groundwork by viewing social structures as models derived from social ideals. The preeminent writer to emerge in the field was Clifford Geertz who showed that the common Balinese cock fight was an institution directly derived from Balinese conceptions of the State and divinity. In Morocco, he and his wife showed that everyday market negotiations for meat and credit were institutions based on high-level ideas of family behavior and conceptions of religious order.

Intellectual Explosion

The earliest recognized use of the term in its current meaning is found at the University of Chicago, which created The Committee on Social Thought just after WWII. The University was a center for intellectuals from its founding in the 1880's and, under Albion Small in 1893, was the earliest American university to establish a sociology department . The Committee on Social Thought was the product of President Robert M. Hutchins, Edward Shils and Leo Strauss. It focused on the relationship between Greek classics and contemporary trans-European society. A typical Committee paper would be: "Platonic Thought in Modern Romance Novels". However, the Committee has remained focused on this narrow conception long after social thought blossomed into a full-blown, independent field of study.

It has not yet possible to identify the forces acting within the academic community which resulted in the development of social thought n a dozen fields in the 1960's and 1970's, but the explosion occurred, unrecognized, nearly everywhere. The following is a limited sample of the dominant thinkers from a variety of fields.


Max Weber's series of two articles published in Germany in1904-5, "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism," is one of the few documents that is clearly seminal for the later movement. Weber was part of a German verin that debated the relative merits of 19th century Marxist economic determinism vs the idealist school of the same period. Marxist thinking established the proposition that most human institutions, including social ideas, were the product of economic forces ranging from class interest to the needs of capital. The idealists found other social values to be driving forces in social structure. Weber looked at the problem of laborers who were willing to sell their services for wages and to work hard in circumstances where their earnings exceeded their survival needs. At the turn of the 20th century this was still a recognized anomaly because many workers in well known parts of the world would only work until their daily needs were met. Weber argued that individual workers were willing to defer gratification and accumulate wealth as a result of  eligious-based ideas they held concerning the positive value of ascetic self-control. Weber saw ideas as driving forces in history. He spent the next and last five years of his life expanding his research into Islamic and other religions.

 A secondary root of Social Thought may be associated with the work of W.G. Sumners (Folkways) who worked in the U.S. at the same as Weber and found a hierarchic structure of ideas that shaped social customs and sanctions in everyday life.

Neither Weber nor Sumners stated the main proposition of social thought explicitly, but both worked on mechanisms that connected ideas to institutions. Weber's gigantic contribution to sociology was not recognized immediately. The 1910 Britannica does not mention him. The entry for sociology at the time derives from the work of Darwin, Marx, Bentham, J.S. Mill and Herbert Spencer.