Thomas Scheff (1952)

Emeritus Professor of Sociology, UC, Santa Barbara.

At Berkeley, my basic approach to sociology, social psychology, and social science grew out of my contact with T. Shibutani. My contact with Goffman and his work was also influential, even though it was many years before I felt its full effect. From Shibutani I learned the importance of integrating theory and empirical work, and of attempting to develop an integrated social science, especially combining the social and the psychological. Later in my career, I began to understand Goffman's work in this way also, even though he himself took care not to develop these themes explicitly.

The two major areas in my sociology have been the societal reaction to deviance, on the one hand, and shame and the social bond, on the other. My theoretical and empirical work on labeling has been influential in many fields and has had considerable impact on the actual treatment of the mentally ill. In particular, my Being Mentally Ill (1966; 1999) was one ofthe key sources of the reform of the mental health laws of California in 1970, and subsequently in all the other states.

My work on shame and the social bond, begun in the mid-1980's, has also been influential, particularly in two areas, protracted conflict in families and between large groups. This influence is still a work in progress, however, since it requires integration of many different approaches and perspectives. In particular, it formulates links between individual psychology, interpersonal relations, and social institutions.

Dissertation Title: 
Staff Resistance to Change in a Mental Hospital