Robert K. Merton Essay

921 words - 4 pages

Robert K. Merton Robert King Merton is an American sociologist who has revolutionised the way we think about sociology and mass communication. Merton¡¦s collaborative work with Paul Lazarsfeld, an Austrian-born American sociologist, is prolific and well recognised as his own individual efforts. Merton was born on July 5, 1910 in Philadelphia; Pa. Merton speaks English, French, German, Italian, and Latin. He received a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1936. He won a scholarship to Temple University and then went on to do graduate studies at Harvard University working with Talcott Parson and Lazarsfeld. Soon after, he became a faculty member at Harvard. From 1939 to 1941, he served on the faculty of Tulane University in New Orleans. In 1941, he was appointed to work at Columbia University and became a full professor there in 1947. He was honoured as Giddings professor in 1963. While serving as associate director of the university¡¦s Bureau of Applied Social Research from 1942 to 1971, he worked alongside Paul Lazarsfeld. Lazarsfeld arrived a year before Merton and headed the new bureau which became a distinguished location for social research.Merton lectured at Harvard before taking up a permanent post at Columbia University where he stayed until he retired in 1979. In 1994 President Clinton presented him with the National Medal of Science. Merton was the first sociologist ever to be awarded this medal. The award was in recognition of his work on the sociology of science published in the 1973 text: The Sociology of Science: Theoretical & Empirical Investigations (University of Chicago Press).Robert Merton has been described as the last classical sociologist. His lifetime spans the end of the lives of the 'founding fathers' and the beginnings of 'the post-modern turn in sociology. He has witnessed the one-time dominance of the 'Structural-Functionalist' school of sociology. He has also witnessed its decline.Merton is closely associated with the work of Talcott Parsons and Structural-Functionalism. Merton's work can be seen as an attempt to address particular problems inherent to that perspective. His work can be divided into four discrete, yet interrelated, areas: "h First, Merton's work on deviance is probably what most contemporary students of sociology will remember him for. Merton takes the concept of anomie from the work of Emile Durkheim and adapts for use in an analysis of motivations for crime and deviance in 20th century U.S.A. Merton's grid of goals and means is now prescribed reading for all students of the sociology of deviance. In Britain at least Merton's work has been given renewed authority. New Left Realism, one of the leading criminological theories in Britain, has justified much of its analysis of contemporary trends in crime using the work of Merton on anomie and culture."h Second, Dysfunction: Merton was critical of Parson¡¦s work to the extent that it made crude and...

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