Blumer's focus on the processual nature of social life and on the significance of the communicative interpretation of social contexts is manifest in his theory of industrialization and social change. His theory entails three major points: industrialization must be seen in processual terms, and the industrialization process is different for different historical periods; the consequences of industrialization are a function of the interpretive nature of human action and resembles a neutral framework within which groups interpret the meaning of industrial relations, and the industrial sector must be viewed in terms of power relations; industrial societies contain inherently conflicting interests.
The editors' introductory essay outlines Blumer's metatheoretical stance (symbolic interactionism) and its emphasis on the adjustive character of social life. It places Blumer's theory in the context of contemporary macro theory, including world systems theory, resource dependence theory, and modernization theory.
Herbert Blumer (1900-1987), formerly Chairperson, Department of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, was the theoretical and methodological leader of "symbolic interactionism" and was identified as its foremost proponent for a half-century. His publications include works on industrial relations, research methods, mass society, collective behavior, race relations, and social movements.
David R. Maines is chairman of the department of anthropology and sociology at Oakland University. He has worked to articulate an interactionist approach to the study of social organization as well as the fundamental relevance of temporality and communication for sociological analysis.
Thomas J. Morrione is Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology at Colby College and he is currently Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the college. He was a Research Associate (1977, 1985) and Visiting Professor (1984) at the University of California, Berkeley.
Becker, Geer, and Hughes discuss various aspects of college life and examine the degree of autonomy students have over each facet of their lives. Students negotiate with authorities the conditions of campus political and organizational life--the student government, independent student organizations, and the student newspaper--and preserve substantial areas of autonomous action for themselves. Those same authorities leave them to run such aspects of their private lives as friendships and dating as they wish. But, when it comes to academic matters, students are subject to the decisions of college faculties and administrators.
Becker deals with this continuing lack of autonomy in student life in his new introduction. He also examines new phenomena, such as the impact of "grade inflation" and how the world of real adult work has increasingly made professional and technical expertise, in addition to high grades, the necessary condition for success. "Making the Grade "continues to be an unparalleled contribution to the studies of academics, students, and college life. It will be of interest to university administrators, professors, students, and sociologists.