In general, social and intellectual history became more interesting than economic and political, for at times it seemed as though the collective development of a rich cultural tradition depended upon making visible, if not immediate, those great areas of native experience previously lost from memory.

>—The Maturity of American Thought (c. 1980, 2006)

The study of contemporary American society is, in one sense, an extension of journalism, which by definition reports the events of the day; however, sociologists intend to go about the task of contemporary understanding far more seriously than journalists. For one thing, sociologists define changes of longer duration. If journalism is meant to be thrown away tomorrow, or at least next month, books are kept for subsequent consultation; as a result their ideas are subject to continual criticism.

The Maturity of American Thought (c. 1980, 2006)

Another crucial critical assumption here is that fresh intellectual work largely grows out of prior achievements and concerns in acknowledged intellectual domains, for thinkers respond to new problems and questions posed not only by recent social developments relevant to continuing disciplinary concerns but to intellectual change in other domains. Though the structures and details of intellectual contributions are often influenced by factors outside the field, the major idea itself, especially if persuasive, usually stems from intrinsic traditions. To put it more succinctly, new thought builds upon old thought in response to new ideas and realities of the current time.

The Maturity of American Thought (c. 1980, 2006)