Thursday, November 30, 2006

George W. I. Thomas Bush

by Unknown

There's a certain amount of irony in Bush describing a pullout plan as lacking realism, considering he's widely quoted as saying "we're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality."

*Title reference is to W.I. Thomas, an American sociologist who is best known for the quote, "if men define situations as real they are real in their consequences." **

**Of course, the quote itself is from a book that Thomas coauthored with his wife, Dorothy Swaine Thomas, an amazingly prolific scholar in her own right. Academic history has not, however, seen fit to give her partial credit for the "Thomas theorem."
Comments:
I know this is an old post but I'm going to comment anyway. (I'm working on a paper about the interesting relationship between WI and DS Thomas and came across the post via a google search).

regarding: Of course, the quote itself is from a book that Thomas coauthored with his wife, Dorothy Swaine Thomas, an amazingly prolific scholar in her own right. Academic history has not, however, seen fit to give her partial credit for the "Thomas theorem.".

Actually, Robert K Merton wrote a fascinating article in Social Forces justifying the attribution of the "Thomas Theorem" solely to WI (it was Merton who bestowed the title "Thomas Theorem"). The article is a very interesting read. Merton sent a copy of his paper on the "Matthew Effect" (a trend where, in collaborative writing, the senior scholar gets all the public credit and the junior scholars none) to DS Thomas in the 1950s. She replied with a letter where she wrote:

W.I. Thomas employed me as an assistant since he had been told by the Rockefeller group to get himself a statistician. The statistical portions were mine and I am sending you under separate cover Volkart's book which makes this clear. The concept of "defining the situation" was strictly W.I.'s.

Of course, this doesn't rule out institutional sexism in sociology or in intellectual history. But Merton does offer a vigorous defense his attribution decision.

Anyway, if this is at all of interest to you, I encourage you to read Merton's full (almost 50 page!) paper:
Merton, Robert K. (1995) "The Thomas Theorem and the Matthew Effect." Social Forces 74(2): 379-422.
 
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