Robert Wuthnow (1969)

Professor, Princeton University

I began graduate studies at Berkeley in 1969 and received my Ph.D. in 1975. While at Berkeley I worked mostly at the Survey Research Center under the supervision of Charles Glock, becoming a Project Director for the 1973 Bay Area Survey on which my dissertation was based. In 1974 I became an instructor at the University of Arizona and was promoted to assistant professor the following year. In 1976 I moved to Princeton University as assistant professor and William Paterson Bicentennial Preceptor in sociology. I have remained at Princeton ever since. My teaching and research have focused mainly on sociology of religion, cultural sociology, and civil society. I am currently director of the Center for the Study of Religion, an interdisciplinary center spanning the humanities and social sciences which I helped initiate in 1999, subsuming an earlier center founded in 1991.

Berkeley's influence on my use and development of sociology was decidedly a product of the events in the wider world that impacted so heavily on the Berkeley campus in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I arrived shortly after the People's Park and Third World mass demonstrations, routinely found my way to Barrows Hall through clouds of tear gas, lived near Black Panther headquarters, took courses in black nationalism and heard lectures by a professor who made periodic junkets to North Vietnam, participated in anti-war protests, served as a campus liaison for an East Asian religious group, and was employeed in the same office as Emily Harris the day she kidnapped Patty Hearst. Insofar as sociology was concerned, Charles Glock taught me how to do survey research, Neil Smelser sparked my interest in sociological theory, Robert Bellah imprinted me with indelible normative concerns, Guy E. (Ed) Swanson saved me from despair, and Gertrude Selznick kept me humble. Needless to say, I was drawn in multiple directions, and through this creative tension came to be oriented more toward trying to think outside the box than adhereing too closely to the norms of the discipline. In retrospect, I have greatly appreciated the flexibility of the Berkeley program in that era and the faculty's commitment to large-scale questions.

If my own research and teaching has had any impact on the world, I would be the last one to describe it accurately and fairly. All I can say is that I have tried to keep important questions in mind as guiding principles in the selection of topics for inquiry. These have included such tensions in our culture as those between religion and politics, between individualism and altruism, and between diversity and cultural tradition, as well as such perennial concerns as the meanings of work and money, virtue, the self, community, and the human quest for transcendence. I have been privileged to have opportunities to write about these topics and even more privileged to work closely with students who will make contributions beyond anything I have been able to do myself.

Dissertation Title: 
Consciousness and the Transformation of Society
Dissertation Book Title: 
The consciousness reformation