Pittsburgh Surveyed: Social Sciences and Social Reform in the Early Twentieth Century.
In 1907 the Pittsburgh Survey brought together seventy social reformers and researchers alarmed by the societal effects of urbanization and industrialization. The project, funded by the Russell Sage Foundation, resulted in an influential six-volume study intended to alert the general public about the social and environmental ills raging in early twentieth-century industrial America. In thirteen essays drawn from a conference held at the University of Pittsburgh in 1993, Pittsburgh Surveyed analyzes the original Pittsburgh Survey and puts it into social and ideological context. Commenting on the Pittsburgh Survey's impact on popular ideas about early twentieth-century urban life and its influence on scholars, editors Maurine Greenwald and Margo Anderson argue that the breadth of the topics addressed by the Survey, as well as the research form itself, make this current assessment useful for scholars working in the social sciences and humanities, the history of social reform, and Pittsburgh history. The essays fall within two broad categories: those that analyze the history of the social survey as a research tool designed to generate social reform, and those that evaluate the Pittsburgh Survey's research and reform agenda within the political, social, and economic life of Pittsburgh.
Interest in the history of the social survey movement arises from current academic and popular debates about the welfare state. Federal and state governments had instituted the central components of the American welfare system during the period of the Pittsburgh Survey, and the study influenced much of the academic discourse and methodology for social scientists interested in social research and reform politics. The convergence of academic disciplines embracing the social sciences, especially sociology, and the Progressive reform movement, with its intellectual underpinnings, helped to create a policy-oriented research agenda by the early twentieth century. The value of the Pittsburgh Survey as a model for research and policy was short-lived, however, and by mid-century the sociological survey replaced the social survey.
Those essayists focusing on Pittsburgh history feature two themes important to the original researchers: the social and economic conditions of the urban industrial setting and the sociocultural conditions of immigrants and their assimilation into the dominant American culture - white, native-born, and middle class. These authors note the middle-class prejudices of the reformers and researchers and use that perspective as a major point of departure, and it becomes a unifying theme for many of these essays. For example, in "Seeking the Meaning of Life: The Pittsburgh Survey and the Family," S. J. Kleinberg discusses family life, an important theme among the Survey's writers, and notes that the middle-class perspective of such authors as Margaret Byington, John Fitch, Crystal Eastman and Florence Lattimore led them to stress education for children and the single wage-earner family model, despite the financial realities that forced children and mothers to contribute to the family's economic survival by working in the mills and factories or taking in boarders. (p. 90) The pervasiveness of this middle-class value system throughout the Survey demonstrates the growing employment opportunities in social science fields for middle-class professionals.
Some may read this volume selectively and concentrate on only those essays relevant to their interests. This approach narrows the benefits of this work. By integrating the findings and interpretations of the six volumes, discussing other reports published by Survey participants, and examining their later work, this collection extends the scope of the initial study. Moreover, it illuminates for present day readers those connections that were important to the contemporary researchers. For example, John Fitch and Paul Kellogg learned how "industrial despotism spread beyond the shop floor" from Margaret Byington's study, Homestead: Households of a Mill Town and used such insights to support their efforts in the fight for industrial democracy. (p. 53) For the contemporary authors and present-day readers, the effects of industrialization broaden from the workplace to the home. Such insights help us to understand the Survey as a whole, not just as discreet volumes, and to appreciate the dynamic nature of the initial analysis. This feature supports the editors' claims of the long-term value of the Survey.
Although this volume does not provide much new primary research or new insights into Pittsburgh history, the thirteen essays do help crystallize our understanding of themes that resonate in the city's history - working-class and immigrant life, corporate industrialism, and the effects of industrialization on the urban environment. These essays cite many of the critical monographs on the city written over the past fifteen years (many of which were developed by the authors featured in this volume), but lack the penetrating insights and analysis of Pittsburgh history conveyed by the original studies. Pittsburgh Surveyed should not be taken as, and does not attempt to be, a primer on Pittsburgh's history. Rather, these essays situate important works in Pittsburgh history within the broader context of themes raised by the Pittsburgh Survey.
Marilyn Zoidis Carnegie Mellon University
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||Journal of Social History|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jun 22, 1998|
|Previous Article:||Republic of the Dispossessed: The Exceptional Old-European Consensus in America.|
|Next Article:||Creating the Dropout: An Institutional and Social History of School Failure.|