Sociology in Government: The Galpin-Taylor Years in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1919-1953

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From 1919 through 1953, the U.S. Department of Agriculture housed the Division of Farm Population and Rural Life—the first unit within the federal government established specifically for sociological research. Distinguished sociologists Charles Galpin and Carl Taylor provided key leadership for 32 of its 34 years as the Division sought to understand the social structure of rural America and to do public policy-oriented research. It reached the height of its influence during the New Deal and World War II as it helped implement modern liberal policies in America's farming sector, attempting to counteract the harsh effects of modern industrialism on the rural economy. In addition, the Division devoted resources to studying both the history and the contemporary state of rural social life.

Sociology in Government offers the first detailed historical account and systematic documentation of this remarkable federal office. The Division of Farm Population and Rural Life was an archetypal New Deal governmental body, deeply engaged in research on agricultural planning and action programs for the disadvantaged in rural areas. Its work continued during World War II with farm labor and community organization work. Larson and Zimmerman emphasize the Division's pioneering practices, presenting it as one model for applying the discipline of sociology in the government setting. Published in cooperation with the American Sociological Association, Sociology in Government preserves the history of this pathbreaking research unit whose impact is still felt today.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The most significant contribution of this book is its ability to provide roots for contemporary rural sociologists, especially those housed in land grant universities or federal government agencies or those holding extension appointments. It provides history and context for our work, and shows the relevance and potential contribution of applied, policy-related research. The authors show a deep respect for Division staff, particularly Galpin and Taylor, as advocates for rural communities and visionaries for the future of rural sociology.”
—Kathryn Brasier, Rural Sociology

“This detailed chronicle of the research conducted in the US Department of Agriculture’s Division of the Farm Population and Rural Life between 1919 and 1953 provides a useful overview of the range of research conducted or sponsored by the division and some of the political and institutional challenges to its program. Larson (emer., Cornell Univ.) and Zimmerman (Univ. of Kentucky) nicely illustrate that high-quality research was produced during the years that Charles Galpin and Carl Taylor headed the division. Readers are provided with in-depth descriptive accounts of their tenures.”
—P. Kivisto, Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780271028491
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 6/5/2008
  • Series: Rural Studies
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Olaf F. Larson is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Rural Sociology at Cornell University.

Julie N. Zimmerman is Associate Professor in the Department of Community and Leadership Development at the University of Kentucky.

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Table of Contents



Felice J. Levine and James J. Zuiches; John E. Lee Jr.


List of Acronyms

1. Introduction

2. Establishing the Division: The Background

3. The Division as an Organization

4. Research Priorities and Programs: Continuities and Discontinuities

5. Farm and Rural Population

6. Levels and Standards of Living

7. The Social Organization of Rural Society: Locality and Other Groups

8. The Social Organization of Rural Life: Institutions and Services

9. Farm Labor

10. The Sociology of Agriculture

11. The Division and Black Populations Yvonne Oliver

12. The Practice of Sociology: I

13. The Practice of Sociology: II

14. Some Other Areas of Research

15. The Division and the Social Science Research System

16. Retrospect and Reflections


Appendix: Persons on the Professional Staff of the Division of Farm Population and Rural Life, Bureau of Agricultural Economics, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1919–1953



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