Proceedings Journal Article — Charles Cooley: Traveler in the Inner and Social Worlds — by Glenn Jacobs


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Cooley was engaged in knowing “men” and in knowing himself. In this respect, he was engaged in a way Freire professed to be but only as part of his larger agenda of societal transformation. Cooley was more modest and also devoted to the process of inner work and self-reflection andobservation. Cooley offers us leads on how and why there is no essential conflict between the individual and society, inner and outer, the spiritualand material and values and facts. Cooley’s genuine appreciation of the human condition, which he witnessed daily and documented in a personal journal kept for more than forty years and which is reflected in his published writing, is striking in its drive and capacity to get to the heart of what makes people what they are, chiefly through observing his place in all of this and his reflections on his own self and its development. This is what drove Cooley to advocate a radical qualitative methodology for sociology and to take a literary approach both in analyzing society and the self thatboth constitutes and is constituted by it and dwells within it. In this paper I discuss his methodology, actually his epistemology underlying a qualitative sociology, his work on his personal evolution, and then illustrate these matters by drawing examples from his “laboratory,” that is, hisjournal, with selections from it concerning a trip made in 1904 to New York’s Lower East Side Jewish community, the death of his daughter, and his own impending death in 1929. These mark Cooley as an ethnographer, and more trenchantly, an intellectual whose practice routinely comprised linking his intellect, his inner self and the world.

Recommended Citation

Jacobs, Glenn. 2004. “Charles Cooley: Traveler in the Inner and Social Worlds.” Pp. 143-164 in Liberating Social Theory: Inspirations from Paulo Freire for Learning, Teaching, and Advancing Social Theory in Applied Settings: Proceedings of the First Annual Social Theory Forum, April 7, 2004, UMass Boston (Discourse of Sociological Practice, Vol. 6, Issues 2, Fall 2004). Issue Guest Editor: Mohammad H. Tamdgidi. Sociology Department, UMass Boston.

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