Robert Park’s Marginal Man: The Career of a Concept in American Sociology

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Chad Alan Goldberg


Robert E. Park’s concept of the marginal man has been a remarkably fruitful source of intellectual stimulation in American sociology over the past eight decades; in this respect the 1928 essay in which he originally presented the concept surely qualifies as a sociological classic. More remarkable still, though Park’s concept undoubtedly needs further revision, its potential for intellectual stimulation is apparently not yet exhausted. A number of scholars have extended Park’s notion of the marginal man beyond his original focus on race and ethnic relations to a broader range of social phenomena, including occupations, gender, and scientific innovation. Others, recognizing that Park anticipated contemporary sociological interest in globalization, immigration, cultural hybridity, and multiculturalism, have returned to the concept in recent years to gain insight into the  present-day movement and interpenetration of peoples. These trends are reviewed, and some suggestions are made in the conclusion of the essay for future research that would build upon and extend them. In English.


United States, Chicago School of Sociology, Robert E. Park, Race, Ethnicity, Culture, Migration, Occupations, Gender, Science

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