Magali Larson (1970)

Emeritus Professor, Temple University

I came to graduate school at Berkeley late, in October 1970. I arrived from France, on election day 1964, to work as a researcher in David Apter's Politics of Modernization project. I had never thought I would stay in the United States, but marriage decided otherwise. In the meantime, I had also written two books on Latin America, and taught for two years at San Francisco State. When it appeared that I could exchange my 'F' visa for a green card (and it was not easy!), I applied to Berkeley. I gravitated toward the Latin American Studies institute, and the faculty I had met in my earlier passage: Art Stinchcombe, in particular, Bill Kornhauser, Bob Blauner, and, later, David Matza, Troy Duster and Russell Ellis. But the experience of the anti-war movement, and the Third World Strike at San Francisco State (where I was the faculty adviser of the Latino students) had turned my work from Latin America to the United States.

Many of us were thinking at the time about the 'new working class' 'a resurgent topic, even today. Since my husband was trying to organize a union of employed architects, I thought I would look into what it meant to be an employed professional. It did not turn out that way: my book, The Rise of Professionalism, I am led to believe, re-wrote the sociology of professions at least for a while, but it also locked me into a series of theoretical and historical articles on lawyers, architects, teachers, nurses, proletarianization, and so on.

A long time passed before I could return to architects. I was more interested then in the cultural impact an organized profession can have. Behind the Postmodern Fa├žade is about the structural bases of cultural influence, and I was very proud to get the Sociology of Culture book award for it. I wish architects read it!

The academic labor market was not easy for older foreign women. There were many disappointments, but I started at the University of Pennsylvania, stayed two years, and then accepted an associate professorship at Temple University in 1978. I stayed twenty years, and I taught, and learnt, and administered, a lot! I must say that as a European and a Latin American, I always was deeply committed to public higher education, the private being a very foreign concept indeed.

In 1998, I took early retirement from Temple to accept a chair in Italy, at Urbino. The idea was that I would go for a semester every year, and I would learn to live in my native country, where I had never lived for any length of time It was probably too late to adjust. Italy is fascinating and maddening, and, above all, the university system is something to which I could not adjust. I resigned in 2001, and I go back for an occasional graduate seminar. It is my first year of retirement, and I am trying to do other things than editing journals, and doing research and writing on political culture. Work with Latino immigrants, and political work, and sometimes teaching, and trying to keep together all the very scattered parts of my existence, here, in Europe, in Argentina that is hard to organize. Sociology has been the center of my intellectual and even my social life, but I always saw it as a political activity. I would like for it to become more so, and to give more to it. That's about all.

Dissertation Title: 
The Development of Modern Professions: Monopolies of Competence and Bourgeois Ideology
Dissertation Book Title: 
The rise of professionalism : a sociological analysis