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Seymour Martin Lipset

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Collection: 1922 Births, 2006 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Writers, 20Th-Century Historians, 21St-Century American Writers, 21St-Century Historians, American People of Russian-Jewish Descent, American Sociologists, Columbia University Alumni, Columbia University Faculty, Deaths from Stroke, George Mason University Faculty, Guggenheim Fellows, Harvard University Faculty, Jewish American Writers, Jewish Sociologists, Labor Historians, Members of the United States National Academy of Sciences, Men Sociologists, Presidents of the American Sociological Association, University of Toronto Faculty
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Seymour Martin Lipset

Seymour Martin Lipset
Born (1922-03-18)March 18, 1922
Harlem, New York, New York, USA[1]
Died December 31, 2006(2006-12-31) (aged 84)
Arlington, Virginia, USA[1]
Occupation Political sociologist

Seymour Martin Lipset (March 18, 1922 – December 31, 2006) was an trade union organization, social stratification, public opinion, and the sociology of intellectual life. He also wrote extensively about the conditions for democracy in comparative perspective.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Academic career 2
  • Public affairs 3
  • Awards 4
  • Personal life 5
  • Selected works 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life and education

Lipset was born in Harlem, New York City, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants.[2] His family urged him to become a dentist.[1] He graduated from City College of New York, where he was an anti-Stalinist leftist,[2] and later became National Chairman of the Young People's Socialist League. He received a doctorate in sociology from Columbia University in 1949. Before that he taught at the University of Toronto.

Academic career

Lipset was the Caroline S.G. Munro Professor of Political Science and Sociology at Harvard University. He also taught at Columbia University, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Toronto.

Lipset was a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He was the only person to have been President of both the American Political Science Association (1979–80) and the American Sociological Association (1992–93).[1] He also served as the President of the International Society of Political Psychology, the Sociological Research Association, the World Association for Public Opinion Research, the Society for Comparative Research, and the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Society in Vienna.

Besides making substantial contributions to cleavage theory, with his partner Stein Rokkan, Lipset was one of the first proponents of the "theory of modernization", which holds that democracy is the direct result of economic growth, and that “[t]he more well-to-do a nation, the greater the chances that it will sustain democracy.”[3] Lipset's modernization theory has continued to be a significant factor in academic discussions and research relating to Democratic transitions.[4][5][6]

Lipset received the MacIver Prize for Political Man (1960) and, in 1970, the Gunnar Myrdal Prize for The Politics of Unreason.

In 2001, Lipset was named among the top 100 American intellectuals, as measured by academic citations, in Richard Posner's book, Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline.[7]

Public affairs

Lipset left the Aristotle, and Max Weber.[8] He became active within the Democratic Party's conservative wing, and was one of the 'original neoconservatives', a small group of public intellectuals who were the first to be called neoconservatives.[1][9]

Lipset was vice-chair of the board of directors of the United States Institute of Peace,[10] a board member of the Albert Shanker Institute, a member of the US Board of Foreign Scholarships, co-chair of the Committee for Labor Law Reform, co-chair of the Committee for an Effective UNESCO, and consultant to the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Humanities Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the American Jewish Committee.

Lipset was a strong supporter of the state of Israel, and was President of the American Professors for Peace in the Middle East, chair of the National B'nai B'rith Hillel Commission and the Faculty Advisory Cabinet of the United Jewish Appeal, and co-chair of the Executive Committee of the International Center for Peace in the Middle East. He worked for years on seeking solution for the Israeli–Palestinian conflict[10] as part of his larger project of research on the factors that allow societies to sustain stable and peaceful democracies. His work focused on the way in which high levels of socioeconomic development created the preconditions for democracy (see also Amartya Sen's work), and the consequences of democracy for peace.[11]


Lipset's book The First New Nation was a finalist for the National Book Award. He was also awarded the Townsend Harris and Margaret Byrd Dawson Medals for significant achievement, the Northern Telecom-International Council for Canadian Studies Gold Medal, and the Leon Epstein Prize in Comparative Politics by the American Political Science Association. He received the Marshall Sklare Award for distinction in Jewish studies and, in 1997, he was awarded the Helen Dinnerman Prize by the World Association for Public Opinion Research.

Personal life

Lipset's first wife, Elsie, died in 1987. She was the mother of his three children, David, Daniel, and Carola[1] ("Cici"). David Lipset is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota. He had six grandchildren. Lipset was survived by his second wife, Sydnee Guyer (a director of the JCRC),[2] whom he married in 1990.

At age 84, Lipset died as a result of complications following a stroke.[8][1]

Selected works

  • Agrarian Socialism: The Cooperative Commonwealth Federation in Saskatchewan, a Study in Political Sociology (1950), ISBN 0-520-02056-1 (1972 printing) online edition
  • We'll Go Down to Washington (1951)
  • Union Democracy: The Internal Politics of the International Typographical Union with Martin Trow and James S. Coleman
  • Social Mobility in Industrial Society with Reinhard Bendix (1959), ISBN 0-88738-760-8 online edition
  • Social Structure and Mobility in Economic Development with Neil J. Smelser (1966), ISBN 0-8290-0910-8 online edition
  • Economic Development and Political Legitimacy (1959)
  • Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics (1960), ISBN 0-385-06650-3 online edition
  • The First New Nation (1963), ISBN 0-393-00911-4 (1980 printing) online edition
  • The Berkeley Student Revolt: Facts and Interpretations, edited with Sheldon S. Wolin (1965)
  • Party Systems and Voter Alignments, co-edited with Stein Rokkan (Free Press, 1967)
  • Student Politics (1967), ISBN 0-465-08248-3 online edition
  • Revolution and Counterrevolution: Change and Persistence in Social Structures, (1968) ISBN 0-88738-694-6 (1988 printing) online version
  • Prejudice and Society with Earl Raab
  • The Politics of Unreason: Right Wing Extremism in America, 1790–1970 with Earl Raab (1970), ISBN 0-226-48457-2 (1978 printing) online edition
  • The Divided Academy: Professors and Politics with Everett Carll Ladd, Jr. (1975), ISBN 0-07-010112-4 online edition
  • The Confidence Gap: Business, Labor, and Government in the Public Mind (1987)
  • Continental Divide: The Values and Institutions of the United States and Canada (1989)
  • Jews and the New American Scene with Earl Raab (1995)
  • American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword (1996)
  • It Didn't Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States with Gary Marks (2000), ISBN 0-393-32254-8
  • The Paradox of American Unionism: Why Americans Like Unions More Than Canadians Do, but Join Much Less with Noah Meltz, Rafael Gomez, and Ivan Katchanovski (2004), ISBN 0-8014-4200-1
  • The Democratic Century with Jason M. Lakin (2004), ISBN 0-8061-3618-9
  • "Steady Work: An Academic Memoir", in Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 22, 1996 online version
  • "Economic Development and Democracy"

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Martin, Douglas (4 January 2007). "Seymour Martin Lipset, Sociologist, Dies at 84". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 July 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Enskenazi, Joe (14 January 2007). "Remembering Seymour Lipset, 'most cited' political scientist". Jerusalem Post. JTA. Retrieved 19 July 2014. 
  3. ^ Lipset, Seymour Martin (March 1959). "Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy". The American Political Science Review 53 (1): 69–105. 
  4. ^ Carothers, T. (2002). The end of the transition paradigm. Journal of Democracy, 13(1), 5–21.
  5. ^ Diamond, L. (2002). Thinking about hybrid regimes. Journal of Democracy, 13(2), 21–35. doi: 10.1353/jod.2002.0025
  6. ^ Zakaria, F. (1997). The rise of illiberal democracy.Foreign Affairs, 75(5), 22–43. Retrieved from
  7. ^ Posner, Richard (2001). Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline. Harvard University Press.  
  8. ^ a b Sullivan, Patricia (4 January 2007). "Political Scientist Seymour Lipset, 84; Studied Democracy and U.S. Culture".  
  9. ^ Goldberg, Jonah (20 May 2003). "The Neoconservative Invention". National Review. Retrieved 19 July 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Spencer, Metta (April 2007). "Seymour Martin Lipset 1922–2006". Peace Magazine 23 (2): 15. Retrieved 19 July 2014. 
  11. ^ Spence, Metta. "Lipset's Gift to Peace Workers: On Getting and Keeping Democracy"

External links

  • Seymour Martin Lipset Memorial Website
  • Biography at the Hoover Institution
  • Interview with Lipset on American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword, Booknotes, 23 June 1996
  • Seymour Martin Lipset interview with Ben Wattenberg (PBS)
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
Educational offices
Preceded by
Charles E. Lindblom
President of the American Political Science Association
1981 – 1982
Succeeded by
William H. Riker
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