U.S. Sociology from the 1890s to the 1970s: Instrumental Positivism and Its Challengers
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the new discipline of sociology had a number of prominent and articulate advocates. Some of the early sociologists, such as Herbert Spencer in England and William Graham Sumner in the United States, strongly supported free-market capitalism and were opposed to government intervention in the capitalistic economy. From the beginning, US sociology has had a strong countersystem tradition, one that often aggressively sides with the oppressed against social injustice and calls for an involved sociology. Between the 1890s and the 1910s, many of these female sociologists were linked to Hull House in Chicago, a major settlement house and intellectual center of the day. By the 1950s, the expanding social science research for US military agencies and other mainline government agencies was being challenged by groups of sociologists who emphasized the importance of a more critical perspective on US society and global society.