Inspired by the new class theory of Gouldner, I came to Berkeley in 1987 to study with Erik Olin Wright, who had been described by my Columbia-school mentors as a Marxist but a good sociologist. Upon visiting, however, Wright informed me that he was going back to Wisconsin, where the average daily temperature was a good 400 degrees colder (Celsius). Since students at Berkeley seemed so jolly, and I found an advisor who liked to talk almost as much as I did, I ended up staying. In the next ten years, I raised koi in a baby pool in my back yard, gardened, worked constantly on two motorcycles and a microbus, learned to play the banjo, and had two sons. I also vaguely remember completing a dissertation, a crime for which I was cruelly expelled.
While at Berkeley I learned much about the history of theory from Jim Stockinger, and advanced methods from Jim Wiley. But I also got something from the regular faculty: I got inspiration and caution regarding the pursuit of new methods from Mike Hout and Claude Fischer (respectively), I learned how to defend dogmatism while remaining intellectually open from Michael Burawoy, and I learned how to analyze fields without being evicted from the one in which my profession was embedded from Neil Fligstein. In addition, I profited from courses with Almaguer, Arditi, Evans, Goodman, Hochschild, Luker, and Schluchter. And of course I got my sense of how to do sociology and I think all the ideas that seem to be mine from Ann Swidler.
Completely unqualified for anything else, I have remained in sociology, still trying to understand what culture is all about. What did I learn most from Berkeley? To distrust methodological sophistication a great deal, and theoretical sophistication completely, and instead base one's scholarship on a passionate love of social life, even if you find most people pretty irritating.