I received my undergraduate degree from Columbia in 1970 and did my graduate work in sociology at the University of California at Berkeley, where I received a Ph.D. in 1979. After teaching at Berkeley for a year and enjoying a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan, I joined the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at Amherst College in 1982. I am currently the Winthrop H. Smith 1916 Professor of Sociology. I chose Amherst because it promised to be a place where I could develop as both a teacher and a scholar, without having to slight the one or the other. It has more than lived up to that promise.
My research interests have been varied. My Ph.D. dissertation studied how the media discussion of marijuana developed over the first three quarters of the twentieth century. This research led to a book, The Strange Career of Marihuana (Greenwood Press, 1963) and several articles.
As the political landscape in America shifted to the right in the 1980s, I increasingly turned my attention toward conservatism in America, producing a book, To the Right: The Transformation of American Conservatism (University of California Press, 1990) and again several articles.
This research in turn got me interested in the role of big business in American society, especially how corporations create and implement philanthropy programs. The resulting book, Looking Good and Doing Good: Corporate Philanthropy and Corporate Power (Indiana University Press, 1997) shared the 1999 Distinguished Book Award from the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action.
More recently, my scholarly work has turned back to drugs. I am tracing how the national conversation about marijuana has changed over the past four decades. I am also examining the development of the marijuana legalization movement. In whatever work I do, I am eclectic regarding the methods and theories I use.
As of Fall semester 2022, I am on phased retirement, which means that I teach half time. During the 2022-2023 academic year, I am teaching Sociology 315 (Foundations of Sociological Theory) in the fall, and Sociology 241 (Trump, the Right, and American Society). I am no longer teaching Sociology 316 (Social Research). During the 2023-2024 academic year, I plan to teach Sociology 315 and either Sociology 241 or Sociology 243 (Drugs and Society). In the past, I have taught courses on political sociology, social movements, American social structure, development of sociological theory.
I have also taken advantage of the many opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching at Amherst. Currently, I teach a First Year Seminar with historian Frank Couvares on “Drugs in History.” Shortly after I arrived at Amherst I taught an Introduction to Liberal Studies course on George Orwell with colleagues in History and Fine Arts. I have taught frequently with colleagues in American Studies, including courses on the 1930s, the 1960s, and Shay’s Rebellion and the Making of the Constitution. In 2008, I was named an Andrew W. Mellon Professor, which allowed me to develop a Mellon Seminar on the role of numbers in society, “Numbers Rule the World.”