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Book Reviews   |    
Tributes: Personal Reflections on a Century of Social Research
Reviewed by Matthew Johnsen, Ph.D.
Psychiatric Services 2005; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.56.3.366-a
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by Irving Louis Horowitz; New Brunswick, New Jersey, Transaction Publishers, 2004, 344 pages, $35.95

Reviewing Tributes: Personal Reflections on a Century of Social Research presents a dilemma. For readers who are interested in personal perspectives on important 20th-century American sociologists, Irving Louis Horowitz provides an interesting collection of memorials, tributes, speeches, and reviews. This book presents an implicit argument for sociology as a unified discipline, at a time when balkanization has led to many sociologies and increasingly less agreement about the core of sociology.

Reminding readers of sociologists such as Robert Merton, C. Wright Mills, Hannah Arendt, James Coleman, and others, Horowitz evokes a time when sociologists were keenly aware of sociology as a discipline, and of its disciplinary boundaries. C. Wright Mills' classic advice to budding sociologists is priceless: "Know that you inherit and are carrying on the tradition of classic social analysis; so try to understand man not as an isolated fragment…. Try to understand men and women as historical and social actors, and the ways in which the variety of men and women are intricately selected and intricately formed by the variety of human societies. Before you are through with any piece of work, no matter how indirectly on occasion, orient it to the central and continuing task of understanding the structure and the drift, the shaping and the meanings, of your own period, the terrible and magnificent world of human society in the second half of the twentieth century" (1).

My dilemma in reviewing this book is that the book's entries are uneven and quite personal. Some subjects were colleagues, and their tributes were written as memorials. Other contributions are about intellectual contestants, the contribution having served a different purpose, such as a presentation in a debate. As such, in some places the tone is loving and uncritical; in others, it is highly critical and provocative.

For readers who are interested in getting to know the person behind the ideas, the book often provides glimpses of welcome personal details. Students of 20th century sociology may find source material about ties of mentorship, education, and connections that might otherwise have been forgotten. Those who are interested in developing a deeper understanding of ideological contests during an enormously productive time of social theorizing may find that this book fills some gaps, providing interesting chapters about some individuals who are not well recognized today. That said, many important sociologists are not included, perhaps because of this volume's focus on a particular cohort of sociologists. Few continental sociologists are included. In addition, coverage of some sociological specialties was sparse. For example, except for one article about the place of psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, the sociology of mental health remains largely untouched.

Dr. Johnsen is research associate professor in the Center for Mental Health Services Research at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.

Mills CW: The Sociological Imagination. New York, Oxford University Press, 1976


Mills CW: The Sociological Imagination. New York, Oxford University Press, 1976

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