David Riesman

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David Riesman
BirthplacePhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Known for The Lonely Crowd

Riesman, David (Jr.)

(1909–  ) sociologist, educator; born in Philadelphia. After a law career, he joined the social science faculty of the University of Chicago (1946–58) and Harvard (1958–80). He gained national prominence with The Lonely Crowd (coauthored, 1950). His other works, many on the sociology of higher education, include On Higher Education (1980).

Riesman, David


Born Sept. 22, 1909, in Philadelphia. American sociologist.

Educated as a lawyer, Riesman was a professor at the University of Buffalo from 1937 to 1941, at the University of Chicago beginning in 1949, and at Harvard University beginning in 1958. He gained fame with his studies on social psychology and culture in the USA in the 20th century: The Lonely Crowd (1950) and Faces in the Crowd (1952). According to Riesman, the “inner-directed” man, an active participant in the competitive struggle of the age of free enterprise, becomes the “other-directed” man, totally subordinated to the bureaucratic organization. This evolution of man’s social character, according to Riesman, is manifested by apathy, pessimism, cynicism, and a sense of inner emptiness.

Riesman describes the crisis of American efficiency, the expansion of consumer psychology, and the increasing worship of the idols of consumption and entertainment. While sharply criticizing the state-monopoly bureaucracy, Riesman attempts to depict the processes taking place as universal, ostensibly associated with the complexities engendered by industrialization and urbanization. He fails to see that these processes are generated by the social and class structure of the USA and idealizes 19th-century American capitalism.

Riesman has written many works that criticize militarism and anticommunism from the standpoints of bourgeois democratism and abstract humanism.


The Lonely Crowd. New York, 1950. (With N. Glazer and R. Denney.)
Faces in the Crowd. New Haven, Conn., 1952.
Thorstein Veblen. New York, 1953.
Individualism Reconsidered. Glencoe, III., 1954.
Constraint and Variety in American Education. [Lincoln, Neb., 1956.]
Abundance for What? Garden City, N.Y., 1963.
Conversations in Japan: Modernization, Politics and Culture. London, 1967.
The Academic Revolution. Garden City, N.Y., 1968. (With C. Jencks.)


Andreeva, M. Sovremennaia burzhuaznaia empiricheskaia sotsiologiia. Moscow, 1965.
Zamoshkin, lu. A. Krizis burzhuaznogo individualizma i lichnost’. Moscow, 1966.


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Du Bois, David Riesman represents one of the major 20th century templates for what Michael Burawoy now calls the "public sociologist.
David Riesman, Reuel Denney, and Nathan Glazer, The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1950).
David Riesman, The Lonely Crowd (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 280, 282.
As other historians are beginning to show, women in the postwar suburbs were neither the isolated "captives" that David Riesman sketched nor the contented housewives in Leave It To Beaver.
In The Lonely Crowd (1950) David Riesman had argued that corporations were forcing men into impersonal, highly structured peer relationships and that the home provided the best means of achieving personal security, but there is clearly no place for family values in this company of men.
Back in the 1950s we were reading stuff about the moral vacuum in affluent suburbia by people like Vance Packard and David Riesman.
What I am proposing here is a variation on what David Riesman called the "counter-cyclical" approach to schooling (12): the concept that the school, as one of the major information systems in our culture, ought to serve as a counter-environment to the environments created by electronic technology.
Even those remarkable works of 50s social criticism by David Riesman, Paul Goodman, Hannah Arendt, Dwight MacDonald--works that have an undeniably strong utopian element--are seen here as "decidedly weak in utopian energy" because they "fail to imagine any sort of large-scale, systematic alternative to capitalism" (8).
13) One outcome is no doubt the creation of what David Riesman termed the "lonely crowd"--a crowd that represents the negation of both the individual and genuine community.
The American public has increasingly become outer-directed where it used to be inner-directed, says David Riesman in The Lonely Crowd.
IF ANYTHING REMAINS more or less unchanged, it will be the role of women," wrote Harvard sociologist David Riesman in Time magazine on July 21, 1967.
During the next several years, Marcus drew together intellectuals like Paul Goodman, Jim Warburg, Leo Szilard, and David Riesman with a batch of members of