Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Sociology and Rural Studies

First Advisor

Robert M. Dimit


The purpose of this study is to examine the assumed relationship between theory and research with respect to alienation. The basic hypothesis of this study is that empirical research on alienation would be influenced by existing theoretical formulations on the topic. It is argued that Melvin Seaman's 1959 conceptualization of alienation would constitute the major theoretical influence inasmuch as it alone provided a systematic set of research­able meanings. To test this basic hypothesis, four sub-hypotheses were developed: (1) Based upon Seeman's five dimensional scheme one should expect a fairly equal emphasis on the examination of all dimensions of alienation in the literature. (2) Given Seeman’s specification and definition of the component elements of each dimension one should expect to find these same component elements specified in subsequent studies of alienation. (3) Following the five dimensional conceptualization proposed by Seeman, one should expect to find a relationship of independence between the respective dimensions in subsequent studies. (4) Given the relationship between theory and research as applied in this study, one should expect Seaman's assumptions as to the nature of alienation (as a social psychological phenomenon) and its treatment (in social learning terms) to be followed in subsequent research. The data relevant to these four sub-hypotheses provided the evidence for judging the accuracy of the basic hypothesis. A stratified, sequential, random sample of fifty-one studies was drawn from a population of one hundred three. The analysis of data from these fifty-one studies resulted in the following decisions: (1) Sub-hypothesis one was unsupported. The five dimensions identified by Seeman were not represented with equal frequency in research. (2) Sub-hypothesis two was unsupported. The same component elements for the five dimensions were not employed in research as defined by Seeman. (3) The evidence for sub-hypothesis three was inconclusive and therefore no decision was made. (4) Sub-hypothesis four was partially supported and partially unsupported. It was found that empirical researchers viewed alienation as a largely social psychological phenomenon. The same researchers did not use social learning terminology sufficiently which rendered the second part of this sub-hypothesis unsupported. With one part supported and one part unsupported, the evidence was judged inconclusive for sub-hypothesis four. On the basis of the findings for the four sub-hypotheses it was considered that the basic hypothesis (that Seeman’s set of researchable definitions would be used in subsequent empirical research) is not valid. The conclusion drawn from this study is that empirical research on alienation has not followed Seaman's theoretical formulation sufficiently to determine its strengths and weaknesses. The result has been a growing body of diffuse findings on a variety of topics called alienation with little specification of what these findings mean. Contrary to the expected relationship between theory and research, research in the area of "alienation" has not made any substantial contribution to a viable theory of alienation.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Alienation (Social psychology)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University

Included in

Sociology Commons