Volume 39, Issue 3, 2012/2013
The Young Shils
Edward Shils began as a sociologist under the close mentorship of Louis Wirth, with whom he collaborated on the translation of Karl Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia. After 1940, however, Shils’ career, which had been focused on topics in sociology, notably the class and occupational structure of cities and on German Sociological Theory, took an apparent turn, which in 1946 led him into a relationship with Michael Polanyi, a half-time appointment at the London School of Economics, and a new intellectual direction. Part of the biographical background to this was personal: his relationship with Wirth ended, and with it his expectation of a Ph.D. and his role in the Sociology Department. Yet his new direction had Chicago roots in his work on Mannheim, and his relation to Frank Knight and the planning disputes of the 1930s and 40s.