Sociology has been a second career for me. Before I enrolled for graduate work at Berkeley, I sailed as a merchant seaman during World War II, then worked for more than fifteen years as a union activist in the steel, meat packing, electrical and construction industries. During the mid-sixties, I spent five years in China teaching American Studies and English to students under the Foreign Ministry.
When I entered the sociology graduate program, I worked closely with Professor Franz Schurmann, one of the leading China scholars in the country. During this period I co-edited the Random House China Reader - People's China - with Franz Schurmann and Nancy Milton and was co-author with my wife Nancy Dall Milton of The Wind Will Not Subside: Years in Revolutionary China 1964-1969. This was an eye-witness description and political analysis of Mao's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. My dissertation was on the birth of the CIO and the relation of the American labor movement to Roosevelt's New Deal. A revision appeared as a book: The Politics of U.S. Labor: From the Great Depression to the New Deal.
I learned a great deal about macro historical analysis from Professors Reinhard Bendix, Neil Smelser, and Visiting Professor Gertrude Lenzer. The Berkeley sociology department proved to be very congenial for a person who had spent many years outside academic life.
I was hired by the University of Oregon in 1978 and spent nearly twenty years teaching there. The sociology department at Oregon was unique in its emphasis on work, organized labor, social movements and environmental studies and I established many close friendships with my faculty colleagues. In the early eighties, I was chair of the university Asian Studies Committee and over the years taught a wide range of graduate and undergraduate courses, specializing in modern China, American society, the U.S. labor movement, sociological theory and international relations.
During my retirement I have renewed my interest in history and have just published a book on international aspects of the American Civil War: Lincoln's Spymaster: Thomas Haines Dudley and the Liverpool Network.
As for the influence of sociology on society ... At a time when the United States is emerging in the world as the new Rome and the current government is hard at work constructing a police state at home, I would suggest that the discipline has a challenging future.