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David Riesman

RIESMAN, DAVID (1909–2002), U.S. sociologist. Born of Jewish parents in Philadelphia, Riesman became a Unitarian. Graduating from Harvard Law School in 1934, he served as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court judge Louis D. *Brandeis (1935–36) and taught at the University of Buffalo Law School (1937–41). He then served as deputy assistant district attorney for New York County (Manhattan) (1942–43).

After World War II Riesman turned to sociology and became a professor at the University of Chicago in 1946. In 1958 he was appointed professor of social sciences at Harvard, where he taught until his retirement in 1980, when he assumed emeritus status.

He became widely known as the principal author (the others were N. Glazer and R. Denney) of The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character (1950; 196210). His description of human types as "tradition-directed," "inner-directed," and "other-directed" have become part of the general vocabulary.

Among his numerous other publications are Faces in the Crowd (1952, 19602); Constraint and Variety in American Education (1956, 19653); Thorstein Veblen: A Critical Evaluation (1960); Abundance for What? (1964); and a collection of his social-critical essays, Individualism Reconsidered (1954, 19662). Riesman was an active pacifist. In 1958 he published, together with Lazarsfeld and Thielens, The Academic Mind: Social Scientists in a Time of Crisis, an analysis of academic attitudes under the impact of the witch-hunt of liberals in the period dominated by Senator Joseph McCarthy. In 1960 he became one of the founders of the Committees of Correspondence, an organization under the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee, which explored moral and political issues regarding nuclear weapons.

Other works by Riesman include Conversations in Japan (with E. Riesman, 1967), The Academic Revolution (with Christopher Jencks, 1968), Academic Values and Mass Education (with J. Gusfield and Z. Gamson, 1971), Academic Transformation (1973), The Perpetual Dream (with G. Grant, 1978), On Higher Education (1980), and Is My Armor Straight? (with R. Berendzen, 1986).


D.M. Rogers, Riesman's 'The Lonely Crowd' (1966); S.M. Lipset (ed.), Culture and Social Character: The Work of David Riesman Reviewed (1961). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: O. Patterson, "The Last Sociologist," in: New York Times (May 19, 2002); H. Gans et al., On the Making of Americans: Essays in Honor of David Riesman (1979).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.