Charles Perrow (1953)

Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Yale University

After a quarter at the U. of Washington, two years at Black Mountain College in N.C., a year bumming about in NYC, and a brief stay at Reed College, I entered Berkeley as an undergraduate, reclaiming one year's worth of credit, and plowed through to the PhD. My personal turmoils matched that of the department, which was gutted by the loyalty oath issue but resurrected by Blumer. An undergraduate course with Bock on the Idea of Progress stabilized my direction; I was not going to write the great American novel, sociology was easier. Then came Selznick , Lipset, Goffman, Kornhauser, Shibutani and so on. With an equally stunning group of fellow graduate students to learn from, and Bendix (MA thesis) and Selznick (PhD thesis) as mentors, I drifted into organizational analysis because there was almost no literature to read (I still am a slow reader). Berkeley student unrest broke out just as I left for my first job at Michigan; we had been the silent generation, but the leftist urges were all about me. Graduate student life at Berkeley, of course, was idyllic, compared to that of an assistant professor in the Michigan department, which encouraged me to leave after five years. Since then I have had to leave Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, and Stony Brook, finally serving out my sentence at Yale. My cohort was good, but the market was even better as universities, sociology, organizations, and organizational theory grew; it was easy to be tenured, easy to move on.

Berkeley encouraged my critical stance toward my field and toward society; Michigan didn't, but when I was tenured at Wisconsin I could say what I pleased and had the freedom to leave that university in protest over its repression of anti-Vietnam war activities. Happenstance, almost a normal accident" immersed me in the Three Mile Island story and vectored my career for over a decade. But last year I finally published a cherished project on the origins of U.S. capitalism and its corrosive power."

Dissertation Title: 
Authority, Goals, and Prestige in a General Hospital