Radical Intellectuals: What Happened to the New Urban Sociology?


This article is about the rise and fall of radicalism among ‘new urban sociologists’ during the 1960s and 1970s. First, I analyze the social and theoretical developments of that time and demonstrate the novelty of the questions that the new urban sociologists posed. Second, I examine the features of the practical engagements and motivations of the members of this group and show how they changed over time. Finally, I discuss the processes of institutionalization of this group. The story of the new urban sociologists is the story of members of the same generation who, dissatisfied with the development of theory in their field, developed a distinct approach to urban problems. The project that they developed combined elements of both intellectual and political projects. I consider both aspects of this project in light of Gouldner’s sociology of intellectuals, and show that de‐radicalization was a consequence of a peculiar combination of political disillusionment, theoretical triumph and a successful project of professionalization.