In contrast to the well-established influence of social change on sociological lives, the author develops a theory of the influence exerted by the lives and experiences of sociologists on social and intellectual structure and change, both in sociology and in society as a whole. Writing in a semi-autobiographical vein, she uses as examples of this influence fragments from her earlier writings in four areas of current sociological concern: sociological practice, gender, age, and dynamic social systems. These fragments are interwoven with anecdotal accounts of experiences from the lives of well-known sociologists and the author herself, spanning much of the twentieth century. While giving a flavor of her own contributions and also several thwarted attempts, these reflections illustrate how the degree of sociological influence depends on the mesh between the attributes of particular lives and the opportunities afforded at the time by the state of the discipline and of society. Several types of historical structures and changes are identified as either facilitating or hindering the flow of influence, including trends in sociological thought and methods of research, ideologies and values paramount in the discipline, and social and cultural changes in society as a whole. For the future, the question raised is how, in a rapidly changing world, to identify channels for exercising influence on sociology as well as on public policy and professional practice. The concluding hope is that other sociologists may be sensitized to a self-conscious awareness of the special opportunities for influence available in the unique historical era in which their lives unfold.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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