The Life and Legacy of Edward Alsworth Ross

Although almost entirely forgotten today, a century ago Edward Alsworth Ross probably ranked as one of America’s most prominent academics and public intellectuals. Being one of the earliest sociologists, he published a couple of dozen books and perhaps hundreds of major articles and reviews, being an important source and influence on numerous other leading figures. In addition, his dismissal from Stanford University on ideological grounds led to creation of The American Association of University Professors, he served as a prominent member of the Dewey Commission clearing Trotsky of the Soviet charges of the Moscow Trials, and he later spent a decade as national chairman of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Although very highly regarded in mainstream liberal and progressive circles, Ross’s sociological research was also heavily cited in the works of Lothrop Stoddard, a leading conservative-racialist of that era. ┬áRoss’s lifetime research was equally praised in The New Masses by Bernhard J. Stern, a prominent Jewish Communist and leading promoter of Boasian anthropology, whose only real criticism was that Ross refused to recognize the scientific validity of Marxism.

Given Ross’s widespread influence and the admiration which his work won from liberal-progressives, conservative-racialists, and Communists alike, his biographical Wikipedia entry seems extremely scanty—just a few hundred words—and poorly sourced and documented, as well as considerably misleading. With many dozens of his major books and articles now online, a vastly more sophisticated and nuanced view of Ross’s thoughts, including those on controversial racial issues, could easily be produced, with detailed citations from his widely influential books on China, Latin America, and American immigrant groups.


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