This article traces the development of American sociology in the second half of the twentieth century in relation to the project to advance the shared disciplinary foundations. The author reconsiders the prominent role of sociological theory in this process and devotes special attention to current criticism of any project designed to found sociology on a unified theory. Between 1945 and 1970, a period often described retrospectively as the 'Golden Age' of sociology, scientists heralded the coming of the era of sociological thinking, a view supported by the unprecedented institutional expansion of the field. However, enthusiasm over the potential growth of the field was in the ensuing period replaced with an escalating sense of dissatisfaction with the absence or unsatisfactory nature of the general vision of development. The idea of unified sociological theory was attacked and the field became more and more contested, fragmented, and compartmentalised. The article analyses the disintegrating impact that the inability to push through the promised programme of unification of the field had. The account of the development of American sociology is tied in with an argument about the conditions for sociological theory today.