ABSTRACT

The earliest exponents of “sociology” in the US used the term to mean both “systematic knowledge of society” and “systematic reform teachings.” Only in the 1890s did they feel a strong need to distinguish between the two. The fi rst large body of empirical research on “sociological” topics was performed by bureaus of labor statistics, agencies created by the state to collect data and opinions on matters relating to the life of the laboring classes. This research was specifi cally understood to be an instrument of reform: the bureaus were a political concession to labor, and most of their research, which involved the fi rst large-scale voluntary questionnaire studies undertaken in the US, was designed to demonstrate the factual validity of the reform arguments made by the labor movement and to publicize these facts to the citizenry at large. The advocates of “social science” who formed the American Social Science Association believed that the teaching of “social science” was the main aim of social science, and the main means of reform.1 The founder of American sociology, Lester F. Ward, wrote his systematic treatise as a demonstration of the possibility of constructing a teachable scientifi c doctrine of reform (Foskett 1949).