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Born Sept. 26, 1892, in New Albany, Ind.; died Nov. 1, 1970, in New York. American sociologist. Professor at Columbia University (1931–60).
Lynd’s most important works, written jointly with his wife, H. M. Lynd—Middletown (1929) and Middletown in Transition (1937)—constitute one of sociology’s first attempts at functional analysis of social life (income sources, home economics, raising of children, leisure time, participation in public life) in an average city and the dynamics of social development. The study covered the city of Muncie, Ind., and was based on direct research, an enormous number of surveys, and studies of statistical and historical materials. Lynd’s theoretical model, however, is not a penetrating one, although it was influenced to a certain extent by the works of Marx. Lynd based his analysis on a division of the population of the city into two fundamental classes—the working class, which includes everyone whose professional activity is associated with operations involving material objects, and the class of entrepreneurs (businessmen), consisting of those who in some way supervise people.
Lynd’s works, although inconsistent, are critical of American imperialism. He demonstrated the growing influence of monopolies after the economic crisis of 1929. Lynd formulated the concept that changes in the sphere of technology and production are accepted and recognized more quickly than new social ideas and ideals.
In recent years Lynd analyzed the nature and functions of power, viewing it as a social institution that supposedly regulates and “harmonizes” relations among different social groups. Lynd was an opponent of the neopositivist idea of a sociology free from ideological values. He affirmed the necessity of a critical attitude toward reality. Lynd’s works influenced American and European bourgeois sociology, particularly the development of research on various collectives, groups, and communities.
WORKSMiddletown. New York, 1929.
Middletown in Transition. New York, 1937.
“Power in American Society as Resource and Problem.” In A. Kornhauser, ed., Problems of Power in American Democracy. Detroit, 1957.
Knowledge for What? Princeton, 1970.