Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work
  W. David Gartman, Ph.D.
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I received my Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at San Diego.  My primary areas of research are sociological theory, historical sociology, economy, and culture. Over the last thirty years my interest has been to demonstrate that the design of technology and other artifacts of material culture is determined not by some neutral logic of efficiency and function but by a complex process of social and cultural conflict.  My first research project focused on the origins and evolution of mass production in the automobile industry, and revealed that this revolutionary production process was shaped in large part by class conflict.  In my next large-scale project I examined the aesthetics of American automobiles, showing that this cultural dimension was similarly shaped by the social struggles in American society.  The two books that resulted from this research have brought me international recognition as a scholar of the automobile industry.

Over the last fifteen years I have been working on a comparative-historical research project dealing with the relation of architecture to the economy and culture of Fordist and post-Fordist regimes of accumulation.  Employing the cultural theories of the Frankfurt School and Pierre Bourdieu, I trace the uneven influence of automobile production and culture on the high art of architecture in the United States and Europe.  This research has recently culminated in my latest book, From Autos to Architecture, published by Princeton University Press.

I teach courses in introductory sociology, sociological theory, and the sociology of culture.  In these courses I use my research findings to illustrate the broader structures and processes of social life.


My current research focuses on the development of a theory of culture based on the findings of my empirical research projects.  I seek to combine the critical theories of Pierre Bourdieu and the Frankfurt School to produce a unified theory of the relation between economic inequalities and culture.  This will culminate in a book entitled A Critical Theory of Culture.  I am also just beginning research on the Federal Art Project of the Great Depression, a program of government-sponsored art.  I am seeking to ascertain the aesthetic effects of this program that made the art field both more diverse and autonomous from the market.   

Phone: (251) 460-6347
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University of South Alabama
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