Ex cathedra: The representation of American society in ASA presidential addresses, 1906-98

Gad Yair*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This study analyses three recurrent themes in the presidential addresses read at the American Sociological Association (ASA) annual meetings, 1906-98. First, most ASA presidential addresses reflected a pride in democracy and equality - a spirit that positions America as leader of the world both socially and morally. The second theme was race conflict. ASA presidents frequently discussed the question of equal rights for 'African-Americans', suggesting that racial and social barriers encouraged social fragility and instability. Ensuing racial riots and protests were referred to as indications of such social problems, which American society (and sociology) failed either to recognise or to solve. Finally, ASA presidents were preoccupied with the theme of social change and its unpredictability in America. Based on this analysis, we argue that the constitutional premises of American democracy have allowed for both protests and the enlargement of political arenas and boundaries, and have systematically dissolved political issues and metamorphosed them into social issues.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)477-500
Number of pages24
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2001


  • American society
  • Democracy
  • History of sociology


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