I think what I was after was a unifying story that could bring everything together, that could give me a sense of the whole of history.
I think that people like Bloomberg, they’re complete thugs. No question about it. But on the other hand, it must be said that they are politically savvy. They don’t get into those positions of power – in the case of Bloomberg, both economic and political power – by being anybody’s fool.
I think the idea of the social construction of beauty – this idea that beauty is simply whatever culture or society says it is – is on the run. Of course, beauty does arise in a cultural context. No one ever denies that. But there’s also a natural response people have to it.
Alchemy is the art of far and near, and I think poetry is alchemy in that way. It’s delightful to distort size, to see something that’s tiny as though it were vast.
I have often said that just as the French revolution, for instance, understood itself through antiquity, I think our time can be understood through the French revolution. It is quite a natural process to use other times to understand your own time.
I think what I and most other sociologists of religion wrote in the 1960s about secularization was a mistake. Our underlying argument was that secularization and modernity go hand in hand. With more modernization comes more secularization.
That’s true but I think the contemporary problem that we are facing increasing numbers of black people and other people of color being thrown into a status that involves work in alternative economies and increasing numbers of people who are incarcerated.
I liked to write from the time I was about 12 or 13. I loved to read. And since I only spoke to my brother, I would write down my thoughts. And I think I wrote some of the worst poetry west of the Rockies. But by the time I was in my 20s, I found myself writing little essays and more poetry – writing at writing.
I think if I hadn’t become a sociologist, I would have become very anti-intellectual.
I think that I shall never see a billboard lovely as a tree. Perhaps, unless the billboards fall, I’ll never see a tree at all.