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Driven to Say Something

Chris Doob is having a moment. Although the emeritus professor of sociology has been retired from full-time teaching since 2005, he has kept up a brisk publishing pace over the past several years and has recently branched out from writing scholarly sociology monographs to opinion pieces for Connecticut newspapers.  

Doob served as a full-time faculty member of the Sociology Department from 1970-2005 and then taught part time for another six years. Over the course of his professional career, he’s been a prolific writer, publishing 17 books, the last four of them since he retired:  Poverty, Racism, and Sexism: The Reality of Oppression in America (2021), Social Inequality and Social Stratification in US Society (2019, 2nd ed.), Great Expectations: The Sociology of Survival and Success in Organized Team Sports (2018), and The Anatomy of Competition in Sports: The Struggle for Success in Major U.S. Professional Leagues (2015).

Now, as he shifts to commenting on current events and issues in newspaper columns, taking on such topics as environmentalism, racism, the potential harms of youth sports, and school funding, he says he feels more like a hybrid journalist/sociologist. “Sociologists consider themselves scholars, in some cases scientists,” Doob says. “I greatly respect good research and what it turns up, but I’ve never had the disposition to be a true scientist. I’ve always wanted to contribute modestly to making the world better, and I see that inclination in both sociologists and journalists.”

In contemplating his shift to writing opinion pieces, he says he believes that “many journalists are much more oriented than most sociologists to analyzing immediate events.” When he was writing his most recent book, on poverty, racism, and sexism in America, he saw some of the events involving gender and race unfolding in major ways just as he was writing about them. He felt pulled to comment on what was happening around him. “More strongly than ever before, I felt I was leaving my field and starting to become a journalist,” he says.

In general, Doob says, events of recent years have made him feel more driven to write, and to speak up and say something. Although he says he has always felt driven to write, during the pandemic that drive became stronger, “probably because I’m often feeling isolated, and it’s a fairly effective way of reaching out to other people.” He also sees the pandemic as having an impact on Americans’ response to social justice-related issues.

During his lifetime, Doob says, he has seen the landscape of social activism changing in this country, with “a growing interest and concern about addressing the dire realities of gender, racial, income, etc., inequalities that are widespread in our country.” In his view, “a level of public arousal about social inequality that’s unique in American history” has played a major role in both the aftermath of the George Floyd killing in 2020 and the explosion of the #MeToo movement, for example. As a partial explanation of the rapid mobilization of social movements in both cases, Doob points to technology – such as cell phones – as having a significant impact on people’s attention to and involvement in modern events.

Although most of his writing has been geared towards social justice-related topics, Doob says while his writing about sports may seem to diverge from his writing about poverty, racism, and social inequality, in fact there is a common thread. His emphasis in his writing has always been on helping people — including himself — “become better human beings.” A sports enthusiast, Doob sees his writing about sports as also addressing the desire to improve oneself. “To my surprise and delight,” he says, “many people, especially a number of media people, liked my sports books.”

Read Chris Doob’s most recent opinion pieces:

“Child’s play that might have brought in millions of dollars” (on sports trading cards) (CT Post, June 7, 2021)

“American Environmentalism: Inching Ahead” (New Haven Register, July 12, 2021)

“‘Opting in’ to hard discussions about race” (CT Post, August 30, 2021)

“The Case for Taking It Nice and Easy” (on “hurry sickness”) (CT Post, November 26, 2021)

“The Downside, and Potential Harms, of Youth Sports” (CT Post, December 22, 2021)

“Solving our persistent school funding crisis” (CT Post, January 24, 2022)

“Embracing the challenges of child rearing” (CT Post, Feb. 12, 2022)

“Rebuilding trust in our local communities” (CT Post, March 28, 2022)

“On climate issues, no longer business as usual” (CT Post, May 2, 2022)

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