In my senior year at UC Santa Barbara, recent Berkeley émigré Tamotsu Shibutani introduced me to social psychology and the sociology of knowledge, and therein began the influence of Berkeley sociology on my academic career. When I first arrived I found the bigness, competitiveness, and cosmopolitan impersonality of the Berkeley campus difficult to negotiate. Despite these challenges the combined mentorings of faculty as diverse as Robert Blauner, Ernest Becker, Reinhard Bendix, Herbert Blumer, Troy Duster, Gertrude Jaeger, Leo Lowenthal, Philip Selznick, and Neil Smelser turned me into an enthusiastic PhD. From them I got a strong sense of the foundational importance of sociology and social theory for understanding the contemporary world and its politics. Most of all, these mentors taught me lots of theory, supplying often seemingly disjunctive pieces of what was to become my 'sociological imagination'. The originality, creativity, dedication, rigor, and intellectual weight of these faculty gave me both a sense of being distinct from graduates at other institutions and the confidence to enter university teaching.
The contrasting claims of symbolic interactionism, functionalism, and Marxism created an exciting environment of competing intellectual forces that seemed to drive the debates and politics of the department. A collision and uneasy fusing of these forces in my own work constituted the center of my overall experience and development as a student of social theory and set me on an early path of struggling with the 'agency/structure problem.' Overall, the highly charged theoretical atmosphere of the department afforded me a perspective that transcended the familiar and routine practices of what I thought of as conventional sociology. More than any specific skills or knowledges (though there was that), Berkeley provided me an intellectual method, a way of comprehending the world, and a disciplined style that were unique and productive.
Determined to stay in the Bay Area I took a position in the Department of Sociology and Social Services at CSU Hayward, where I taught for 32 years. I specialized in theory, cultural sociology, social inequality, and, lately, the sociology of identity. Most of my research has been in the areas of mass culture, critical theory, and postmodernity. My book, Identity Crises: A Social Critique of Postmodernity, was published by University of Minnesota Press in 1998.