Saturday, June 10, 2006

Robin Williams Jr., -- RIP

Professor Robin Williams Jr., ("Robin M. Williams Jr., a noted sociologist and a former president of the American Sociological Association who offered insights into racism and the behavior of men in war, died here on June 3.") was a teacher of mine back in 1962-3. He wasn't the greatest lecturer I had, but he was interesting and gave me some insights into American society I still use. The course was on American society, which was also the title of a book of his. It's no longer in print but I recommend it.

What I remember--the observation that we pass laws and act in symbolic ways to reaffirm norms, like the law against prostitution with the periodic crackdowns--the actions don't really attack prostitution, they say that we "good people" don't approve of it. That's true today, though I've learned over the years that symbols do matter perhaps more than I got from his class.

Another observation fit in with my future career--the idea that the New Deal delegated governmental power partially in an attempt to co-opt groups, as giving farm programs to an agency run in part by locally elected committees, the agency I ended up working for later. Local control became big during the War on Poverty, but it's gradually faded. Even the Republicans have abandoned it during the Bush administration

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