When Hollywood Met Durkheim: Popularized Social Science and the Social Problem Film
In the 1940s, Hollywood began to produce a number of topical films about social issues, ranging from veteran adjustment and alcoholism to racial discrimination. Much of the historiography on these films sees these as cooptation of New Deal leftism by the individualizing ideologies of Hollywood. This lecture by Prof. Chris Cagle, however, argues that changes in American social science–particularly the shift from Chicago school sociology to postwar functionalism–help explain the particular mix of “psychological” and “social” within the social problem film’s popularized sociology.
Chris Cagle is a visiting Assistant Professor of film history and theory in the Film and Media Arts Department at Temple University. His research interests include postwar Hollywood cinema, social theory, and documentary studies. He is also a panel member of the TUTV program Film Versus Film.