Pp. 238f, the concluding section of Chapter 13, "The Twinkling of American Catholic Sociology," by Kenneth Westhues, in E. Leonard, H. Strasser, and K. Westhues, eds., In Search of Community: Essays in Memory of Werner Stark, 1910-1985, New York: Fordham University Press, 1992.
Stark found himself in the end quite without the influence he desired: "We are all suffering from the restructuring of the pyramid of values, more concretely speaking, from the promotion of material values to the first place and the depression of properly social values to a second place or even lower. This is what I am trying to show and helping to correct in writing The Social Bond, but I know that I am no more than a voice crying in the wilderness" (letter to the writer, 1979).
It is not just the sociologists like Stark, the ones who affirm the social bond in orthodox religious terms, who now feel like voices in the wilderness. It is also the disciples of Hegel, Mark, Bergson, Sorokin, Gouldner, Buber, Dewey, Mannheim, Polanyi, Fromm, Jane Addams, Ernest Becker, C. Wright Mills, Herbert Marcuse, Simone de Beauvoir, E. F. Schumacher, Richard Titmuss, Michel Foucault—anyone, in fact, who refuses to divorce the quest to understand this world from a public commitment to building a better one. The problem all such scholars face in our fragmented Western World is the paucity of bases of institutional support. In the American Sociological Association and its regional affiliates, the leading journals, and most of the major departments, ethical concern is mostly banished to the privacy of individual minds. Disinterested fact-finding and mathematical game-playing are the stuff of discourse there, as if sociology had no purpose outside itself—except perhaps the provision of technical information for the pursuit of private goals within this status quo. Such is the character of the professional mainstream, the dominant orientation of all its component parts, from granting agencies to undergraduate curricula. There is little room left even for senior intellectuals like Stark or Gouldner, who gained respectability by conventional criteria prior to writing and publishing more critical, personal, value-conscious works. There is even less room for those who express a critical consciousness at the start of their careers; these latter are lucky to find academic jobs at all.
By now, not only Stark but also Dohen, McNamara, and all the scholars named in the preceding paragraph—by now all these are dead. If the moral science they once practiced is not to be lost on future generations, perhaps even if there are to be future generations in the West, that moral science will have to have more institutional supports than it has currently. The main problem we face now is not theoretical, methodological, or even, in a broad sense, intellectual. Scholars like those named above have already laid the foundation for a social science responsive to the contemporary human predicament. The required intellectual tradition already exists, at least in broad outline (see Westhues 1987), and it is a mistake to imagine that collecting more data, making more analyses, and writing more books will magically set things right. We need more books, to be sure, explicitly focused on the pressing public issues of our time, but the crucial question is in what institutional context the books are to be written, published, and read. As things stand, a professionalized, detached, ahistorical, amoral academic context enjoys overwhelming hegemony (see Jacoby, 1987). This context discourages engaged, critical scholarship, and it drains the life from any such scholarship that is done.
Our problem is not lack of knowledge, but lack of constructive links between knowledge and action, wherein the working lives of social scientists intersect with the lives of people outside academic life. Communitarian sociology of the kind Stark produced is a bizarre and quaint oddity except insofar as it is embedded in some real community, wirtten and read out of shared concern for the future of the earth and out of shared commitment to the common good. The problem for communitarian sociologists in the present day is a lack of real communities wherein to practice their craft. Occasional consulting for private or public bureaucracies, however attractive as a respite from the ivory tower, is not enough. A bureaucracy is not a community. The institutional context of think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute or the Fraser Institute is another available alternative, but most of these are funded by big-business interests for propaganda purposes, and represent elite privilege rather more than the common good.
Notwithstanding the dissolution of the American Catholic Sociological Society and the Church's decline over the past quarter-century, some Catholic sociologists are still able to find institutional support for their work in the Catholic community. Joseph Fitzpatrick (see 1987) and James R. Kelly (see his articles in America throughout the 1980s) are good examples. Journals like Thought and Commonweal may have lost circulation but they still exist, and so do publishers like Fides, Orbis, and Sheed & Ward. The network of Catholic colleges and universities is smaller than it was, and more caught up in academic games of publish or perish, but the network still exists. Within it some first-class, old-fashioned intellectuals still manage to gain tenure and rank by lecturing to Catholic audiences and writing for Catholic readerships outside the circles of professionalized academic disciplines.
Much the same can be said of sociologists with ties to various other denominations. The half million Mennonites in Canada and the United States, for example, support about a dozen colleges, a handful of scholarly journals, and several modest research funds, which constitute institutional support for the few dozen sociologists whose work is embedded in this distinctive and rich community (see Fretz, 1989; Redekop & Bender, 1988). Many other independent liberal-arts colleges in the United States, and many of the church colleges on Canadian university campuses, are similarly integrated into real, living communities, mostly sectarian, but in some cases local, regional, ethnic, or racial. Like other professors on their faculties, sociologists in these schools work in dialogic relation with these communities and gain academic rewards for addressing non-academic citizens.