Sociology Alumnus Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

September 6, 2019 - Karessa E. Weir

Dr. Norbert Wiley, (1962 Sociology PhD) received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the ASA’s Section on History of Sociology at the August 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in New York City.

According to the ASA website, Dr. Wiley, Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois, has produced several dozens of texts, a considerable number of which have become cornerstones in scholarly fields concerned with the history of sociology and social theory in America. Yet, his interests were never with history per se. From his 1979 chapter on “The Rise and Fall of Dominating Theories in American Sociology” to his more recent papers on the Chicago tradition of social thought (“A Mead-Cooley Merger,” and “The Chicago School: A Political Interpretation,” both from 2011), Professor Wiley’s writing has been characterized by an outstanding ability to integrate historical and theoretical argumentation in a way that allows both sides to profit from each other.

“This quality turns Professor Wiley’s works into pioneering exemplars of scholarship that show how to circumvent the restrictions that result from the boundaries that are drawn and re-drawn virtually every day between disciplines as well as between disciplinary subfields,” the award stated.

Dr. Wiley came to MSU in 1958 when the the department was going through major changes, he said. 

" When I came to MSU, the department. was shifting from a specialization in ”community” to a wide-ranging eclecticism. This eclecticism went from functionalism (Charlie Loomis) to Marxism (Bill Form).  There were no leading professors or ideas, so the grad students sort of taught themselves," he wrote. 
"Archie Haller was pushing quantification but we still had several required anthropology courses, which were ethnographic and close to symbolic interactionism.  In Paul Honigsheim’s last seminar he told us personal details about Max Weber’s life. Paul had been Weber’s protege.  Weber was actually quite religious, but for him the sacred, transcendental principle was conscience.  Weber’s Protestant Ethic project was largely self-analysis."

"At that time the nationally “good” departments were organized around an elite group of professors and an elite set of ideas.  MSU had neither of those, but perhaps that’s why it was a great place to learn sociology," he wrote.

After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Wiley taught at MS as an assistant professor in 1961-62. He moved on to Marquette University 1962-65 and then Wayne State University from 1965-1968. In 1968, he moved to the University of Illinois where he remained until his retirement in 1995. 

At the University of Illinois, Dr. Wiley "did not write much though I did write one good book (The Semiotic Self) at the end." But after retiring and moving to California, Dr. Wiley wrote most of his life's work for which he attributed the Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also served as a Visting Scholar and Professor at the University of California - Berkeley.

"I am now in Northern Coastal California, (Mendocino) where a lot of socialist hippies, like me, moved and liberalized local politics.  As a writer and an extremely happy husband (thanks Chris!) it’s like living in heaven," Dr. Wiley wrote.