Maurice Zeitlin (1958)

Professor of Sociology, UCLA

I was appointed an instructor in sociology and anthropology at Princeton University on July 1, 1961, whereupon I went to Cuba for the summer to begin research for my dissertation on the revolution and workers consciousness; I returned to Cuba the next summer to complete my research, and got back to the US just in time for the "missile crisis." Princeton terminated my employment soon after, effective at the end of the academic year of1963.  If the interpretations of my being "let go" vary, the facts are not in dispute: the president of the university had called the department's chairman, as he later told me, to evince "concern" about my frequent public criticism of American foreign policy toward Cuba (my first book, with Bob Scheer, Cuba: Tragedy in our Hemisphere, came out late in the summer of 1963); and the Daily Princetonian and some alumni letters had publlicly urged that Princeton fire me. I'd have been out of a job and out of a career if not for the fact that among the burgeoning faculty of sociology at UW-MSN were three UCB alumni who managed to convince a skeptical Ed Borgatta, then chairman, to hire me as an assistant professor in the fall of 1964. So I say two cheers for the Old Boy network. I got promoted to assoc prof in 1968 and to full professor in 1970.  But I often wonder how, since those were years, in Madison, of my deep involvement in the intensifying anti-Vietnam war movement, in rallies, protests, and demonstrations on campus, which were met at their high point by massed helmeted police with billy clubs and shields and national guard troops armed with live ammunition and bayonets, buttressed by a tank that sat high on a hill overlooking the campus. All too many of my fellow faculty were denied tenure as the result of their own involvement in these activities. Soon after things quieted down there, I opted for the Southland, and UCLA, where, since the fall of1977, I've been hiking, horseback riding, sailing, sunning, and biking, except for enforced interruptions to teach, research, and write. 

I was influenced by Berkeley in two ways: as much if not more by the time I spent outside of class involved in campus activiites against capital punishment; in rallies against violations of civil liberties by HUAC's notorious Hearings in San Francisco in 1960; picketing in support of the early civil rights movement (e.g., at the Woolworth's in Berkeley, which had segregated facilities in the South), and especially in writing, mimeographing, and distributing leaflets and making one long speech after another at Sather Gate (along with Bob Scheer) in the defense of the Cuban revolution against US covert action and intervention. I had entered Sociology after a year in Anthropology at UCB studying both ethnography and paleontology with some of the world's leaders in their field. In Sociology, my historical sensibility was deepened by the tutelage of my research and writing on Japanese feudalism by Reinhard Bendix, my M.A. Thesis committee chair, and Wolfgang Eberhard; intellectual (and political) jousts with them and then with S. M. Lipset, who chaired my doctoral dissertation committee, and Martin Trow, another committee member, as well as with Leo Lowenthal, Hanan Selvin, and William Kornhauser (for whom I TA'd), not only taught me an immense amount but also strengthened my commitment to carrying out socially relevant research and writing.  

Having admitted to that aspiration, to shaping the world that is, I am tempted to say "bah, humbug" in answer to this question. Although I know (and am grateful) that my work is taken seriously and respected if not admired by other scholars, and my teaching too is appreciated by and has enriched many students over the years, none of my scholarly research and writing -- as far as I can tell, alas -- has even rippled the surface waters of "the world" outside academe, let alone  in any way actually having "shaped the world." 

Dissertation Title: 
Working Class Politics in Cuba: A Study in Political Sociology