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).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Also, Nisbet's view of the condition of American society at the time he was writing has a lot in common with that of the leading liberal social critics of the fifties, such as David Riesman. He saw the country as being soulless, adrift, materialistic, conformist, advertising-riddled, rootless, corporate, and dominated by the rise of an alarming new creature, mass man ...
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When the paperback came out, I was an editor at the then-young Anchor Books - which had also published the other great sociological bestseller of the 1950s, David Riesman's Lonely Crowd (of which I was a junior author).
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Wright Mills and David Riesman. Getting thrown in jail in the South was a way not only of helping people but also of taking the personally liberating step of burning one's bridges to the organization-man life.