Ann Swidler (1967)

Professor of Sociology, UC, Berkeley

Berkeley shaped me even more after I left than while I was there as a graduate student. Robert Bellah, Reinhard Bendix, Arlie Hochschild, Neil Smelser, along with Leo Lowenthal's informal seminar on culture and an inspired group of fellow graduate students, taught me that culture and ideas can reshape history. I arrived at Harvard to find that the 'sociology of culture' was just coming into being. I moved to Stanford only to be told that it didn't exist. This confrontation with the world-outside-Berkeley led me to think about culture more clearly, leading to 'Culture in Action' (ASR 1986), and, after I returned to Berkeley, my second book, Talk of Love: How Culture Matters (2001). My other good fortune was collaboration and sustaining friendship with what became the Habits-of-the-Heart group (Robert Bellah, Richard Madsen, Bill Sullivan, Steven Tipton, and myself). Berkeley style, we allowed ourselves to think as deeply as we could about failures of American culture and institutions and about rebuilding the basis for a more just and inclusive society. An all-Berkeley group of colleagues wrote Inequality by Design (1996), examining how America's policy choices amplify inequality. Now, pursuing similar interrelations of culture, institutions, and collective capacities, I am investigating variations in response to the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dissertation Title
Organization without Authority: A Study of Two Alternative Schools
Dissertation Book Title
Organization without authority : dilemmas of social control in free schools
Entry Year