|The Right Honourable
The Lord Dahrendorf
|Member of House of Lords|
15 July 1993 – 17 June 2009
1 May 1929|
|Died||17 June 2009
|Political party||Liberal Democrats (UK); FDP (Germany)|
Ellen Dahrendorf (née Ellen Joan Krug) (1980–2004)
Christiane Dahrendorf (2004–2009)
|Children||Nicola, Alexandra, and Daphne Dahrendorf|
|Alma mater||University of Hamburg
London School of Economics
|Known for||Providing a new definition of class conflict based on authority relations|
Ralph Gustav Dahrendorf, Baron Dahrendorf, KBE, FBA (1 May 1929 – 17 June 2009) was a German-British sociologist, philosopher, political scientist and liberal politician. A class conflict theorist, Dahrendorf was a leading expert on explaining and analyzing class divisions in modern society, and is regarded as "one of the most influential thinkers of his generation." In his lifetime, Dahrendorf published multiple articles and books. His most notable works include Class Conflict in Industrial Society (1959) and Essays in the Theory of Society (1968).
During his political career, he was a Member of the German Parliament, Parliamentary Secretary of State at the Foreign Office of Germany, European Commissioner for External Relations and Trade, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Education and Member of the British House of Lords, after he was created a life peer in 1993. He was subsequently known in the United Kingdom as Lord Dahrendorf.
He served as director of the London School of Economics and Warden of St Antony's College at the University of Oxford. He also served as a Professor of Sociology at a number of universities in Germany and the United Kingdom, and was most recently a Research Professor at the Berlin Social Science Research Center.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Dahrendorf's thought
- 3 Criticism
- 4 Relationship to other classical theorists, and perspectives
- 5 Further reading
- 6 Publications in printed in other languages
- 7 Awards and honours
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Born in Hamburg, Ralph Dahrendorf was the son of Lina and Gustav Dahrendorf, and brother of Frank Dahrendorf. Dahrendorf was known for strongly supporting anti-Nazi activities. As a child, Ralf was a member of the Deutsches Jungvolk, the youngest branch of the Hitler Youth. When Ralf was only a teenager, he and his father, a SPD member of the German Parliament, were arrested and sent to concentration camps for their Anti-Nazi activities during the National Socialist regime.
Education and career
He studied philosophy, classical philology, and sociology at Hamburg University between 1947 and 1952. He became a doctor of philosophy and classics (PhD) in 1952. At this early stage in Dahrendorf's academic career, he took a vested interest in Marx theory, writing his PhD thesis on Marx's theory of justice.  He continued his academic research at London School of Economics under Karl Popper as a Leverhulme Research Scholar in 1953–54, gaining a PhD degree in sociology in 1956. He was a professor of sociology in Hamburg (1957–60), Tübingen (1960–64) and Konstanz (1966–69).
From 1968 to 1969, Dahrendorf was a member of the Parliament of Baden-Württemberg. From 1969 to 1970 he was a member of the German parliament for the Freie Demokratische Partei (Free Democratic Party) (the German liberals). From 1969 to 1970 he was also a Parliamentary Secretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1970 he became a Commissioner in the European Commission in Brussels.
From 1967 to 1970 he was Chairman of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Soziologie, resigning it when he took up his office at Brussels. Between 1976 and 1979 he led the educational sub-committee of the Benson Commission.
Ralf Dahrendorf again settled in the United Kingdom in 1986, becoming a Governor of the London School of Economics. From 1987 to 1997, he was also Warden of St Antony's College at the University of Oxford, succeeding the historian Sir Raymond Carr.
Dahrendorf was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 1982. He adopted British citizenship in 1988, and became known as Sir Ralf Dahrendorf, as only KBEs who are British subjects are entitled to use that title. In 1993, he was granted a life peerage and was named Baron Dahrendorf of Clare Market in the City of Westminster by the Queen. Clare Market is near the London School of Economics, and is also used for car parking by LSE staff. Dahrendorf chose this name to honour the School in this way, and also as a sign of his liberal humour. He sat in the House of Lords as a cross-bencher. Between 2000 and 2006 Dahrendorf served as Chairman of the Judging Panel of the FIRST Award for Responsible Capitalism . He received the FIRST Responsible Capitalism lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. On 11 July 2007, he was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Social Studies.
In January 2005, he was appointed a Research Professor at the Social Science Research Center in Berlin (WZB). 
Dahrendorf held dual citizenship in the UK and Germany. After retiring, he lived partially in Germany and partially in the United Kingdom, with a home in London and one in Bonndorf in south-western Germany. When asked which city he considered his home, he once said, "I am a Londoner". He also once said that his life was marked by a conflict between the obligation he felt to the country of his birth, Germany, and the attraction he felt for Britain.
Marriages and children
Dahrendorf was married three times. He married his first wife, Vera, in 1954. She was a fellow student at LSE. Together they had three daughters: Nicola, Alexandra and Daphne Dahrendorf. Nicola Dahrendorf has worked for the United Nations and as the West Africa Regional Conflict Adviser to the UK Government.
From 1980 to 2004, he was married to historian and translator Ellen Dahrendorf (née Ellen Joan Krug), the daughter of Professor James Krug. When he was created a peer in 1993, his wife became known as Lady Dahrendorf. Ellen Dahrendorf, who is Jewish, has served on the board of the Jewish Institute for Policy Research, been chair of the British branch of the New Israel Fund, and is a signatory of the Independent Jewish Voices declaration, which is critical of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians.
He is survived by his third wife, three daughters, and one grandchild.
Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society
In 1959, Dahrendorf published in his most influential work on social inequality, titled Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society. Despite later revisions and affirmations of his work, today this book still remains as his first detailed and most influential account of the problem of social inequality in modern, or postcapitalist, societies. 
In analyzing and evaluating the arguments of structural functionalism and Marxism, Dahrendorf believed that neither theory alone could account for all of society. Marxism did not account for evidence of obvious societal integration and cohesion. Structural functionalist, on the other hand, did not focus enough on social conflict.  He also asserted that Marx defined class in a too narrow, historically-specific context. During Marx’s time, wealth was the determining factor in attaining power. The wealthy –– and therefore the powerful –– ruled, leaving no way for the poor to gain any power or increase their position in society.
Drawing on aspects of both Marxism and structural functionalists to form his own beliefs, Dahrendorf highlighted the changes that have occurred in modern society. Specifically, with democracy came voting for political parties, and increased social mobility. He believes that the struggle for authority creates conflict.  Furthermore, he believes that traditional Marxism ignores consensus and integration in modern social structures. Dahrendorf’s theory defined class not in terms of wealth like Marx, but by levels of authority. Dahrendorf combines elements from both of these perspectives to develop his own theory about class conflict in postcapitalist society.
Dahrendorf's theory on class conflict
As a sociologist, Dahrendorf developed, cultivated, and advanced conflict theory. This new theory attempted to bring together structural functionalism and Marxism. Dahrendorf states that capitalism has undergone major changes since Marx initially developed his theory on class conflict. This new system of capitalism, which he identifies as postcapitalism, is characterized by diverse class structure and a fluid system of power relations. Thus, it involves a much more complex system of inequality than Marx originally outlined. Dahrendorf contends that postcapitalist society has institutionalized class conflict into state and economic spheres. For example, class conflict has been habituated through unions, collective bargaining, the court system, and legislative debate. In effect, the severe class strife typical of Marx’s time is not longer relevant. Dahrendorf’s theory often took the opposite view of functionalists.
Conflict theorists, and therefore Dahrendorf, often took the exact opposite view of functionalists. Whereas functionalists believe that society was oscillating very slightly, if not completely static, conflict theorists said that every society at every point is subject to process of change”. He believes that there is “dissension and conflict at every point in the social system” and “many societal elements as contributing to disintegration and change”. They believe order comes from coercion from those at the top. They believe that power is an important factor in social order. Dahrendorf believes that both conflict theory and consensus theory are necessary because they reflect the two parts of society.
In developing his conflict theory, Dahrendorf recognized consensus theory was also necessary in order to fully reflect society. Consensus theory focuses on the value integration into society, while conflict theory focuses on conflicts of interest and the force that holds society together despite these stresses. In fact, Dahrendorf asserted that there has to be consensus in order to have conflict. The opposite is also true, he believed –– conflict can result in cohesion and consensus. However, Dahrendorf did not believe the two theories could be combined into one cohesive and comprehensive theory. Instead, Dahrendorf’s thesis was “the differential distribution of authority invariably becomes the determining factor of systematic social conflicts”.
Dahrendorf believed that Marx’s theory could be updated to reflect modern society and Roman society. He rejects Marx’s two class system as too simplistic and overly focused on property ownership. Due to the rise of the joint stock company, ownership does not necessarily reflect control of economic production in modern society. Instead of describing the fundamental differences of class in terms of property, Dahrendorf claims that we must “replace the possession, or nonpossesion, of effective private property by the exercise of, or exclusion from, authority as the criterion of class formation”. A crucial component to Dahrendorf’s conflict theory is the idea of authority. Although it initially appears to be an individual issue and psychological, Dahrendorf argues that authority is related to positions not individuals. In this way, subordination and authority are products of expectation specified by society, and if those roles are not adhered to, sanctions are imposed. Dahrendorf expands on this idea with the notion that roles of authority may conflict when in different positions that call for different things. According to Dahrendorf, these different defined areas of society where people’s roles may be different are called imperatively coordinated associations. The groups of society in different associations are drawn together by their common interests. Dahrendorf explains that latent interests are natural interests that arise unconsciously in conflict between superordinates and subordinates. He defines manifest interests as latent interests when they are realized.
Dahrendorf believed that the basis of class conflict was the division of three groups of society: quasi groups, interest groups, and conflict groups. Thus, society can be split up into the "command class" and the "obey class". The command class exercises authority, while the obey class not only has no authority, and but is also subservient to that of others. With a clear interplay between both class types class conflict theory sought to explain that interplay. Quasi groups are “aggregates of incumbents of positions with identical role interests”. Interest groups are derived from the quasi groups and they are organized with members, an organization, and a program or goal. The main difference between quasi groups and interest groups are that interest groups are able to organize and have a sense of “belonging” or identity. Darhendorf acknowledged that other conditions like politics, adequate personnel, and recruitment would play a role along with the groups. Unlike Marx, however, he did not believe that random recruitment into the quasi group, it would not start a conflict group. In contrast to Lewis Coser’s ideas that functions of conflict maintained the status quo, Dahrendorf believed that that conflict also leads to change (in social structure) and development. His belief in a changing society separated Dahrendorf’s ideas from Marx who supported the concept of a utopia.
While Dahrendorf sought to blend the ideas of structural functionalism and Marxism, conflict theory did little to improve the theory. Conflict theory has many of the same problems of structural functionalism. Conflict theory is also linked to structural functionalism by its ideas about systems, positions, and roles. Overall, the theory has few similarities with Marxism. In addition the theory takes only a macrosociological perspective. The theory fails to address much of social life.
In increasingly modern, multicultural societies, the contested concept and construct of identity received growing emphasis, and was the focus of many debates. As a consequence of the debates over identity, and inevitably in a globalizing, modern, multicultural world, the issues of citizenship came into play. Specifically, the discussions analyzed the ways in which citizenship contributed to the formation and construction of identities. Dahrendorf’s adherence to Marxian seemingly prevented him from participating in these debates. Absent from Dahrendorf’s theory were any significant discussions of culture, and therefore, citizenship and identity.
Relationship to other classical theorists, and perspectives
Unlike many of the other works published by social theorists in the 1950s, Dahrendorf’s work acknowledges the same class interests that worried Marx . Like Marx, Dahrendorf agreed that conflict is still a basic fact of social life. Dahrendorf believed that class conflict could have beneficial consequences for society, such as progressive change. Dahrendorf is recognized for being one of the best departures from the structural functionalist tradition of the 1950s. Dahrendorf criticized and wanted to challenge the “false, utopian representation of societal harmony, stability, and consensus by the structural functionalist school.” Nevertheless, Dahrendorf still shares key ideas with structural functionalists, such as a general faith in the efficacy of political and economic institutions. Like Weber, Dahrendorf criticizes Marx’s view that the working class will ultimately become a homogeneous group of unskilled machine operators. Dahrendorf points out that in postcapitalist society there are elaborate distinctions regarding income, prestige, skill level, and life chances. Dahrendorf’s pluralist view of class and power structures and belief that hierarchies of authority are inevitable in modern societies also reflect Weberian ideas.
- Julie Smith, Ralf Dahrendorf (Lord Dahrendorf) in Brack et al. (eds.) Dictionary of Liberal Biography; Politico's 1998 pp. 89–90
- Julie Smith, Ralf Dahrendorf in Brack & Randall (eds.) Dictionary of Liberal Thought; Politico's 2007 pp83–85
- Edward G. Grabb, "Theories of Social Inequality: Classical and Contemporary Perspectives." Ontario: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1997
Publications in printed in other languages
Works available in English
- Dahrendorf, Ralf. (1959) Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society. Stanford: Stanford University Press
- Dahrendorf, Ralf. (1968) Essays in the Theory of Society. Stanford: Stanford University Press
- Dahrendorf, Ralf. (1967) Society and Democracy in Germany. New York & London: W. W. Norton & Company
- "The Modern Social Conflict". University of California Press: Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1988
- Dahrendorf, Ralf (1974) The New Liberty BBC Radio Reith Lectures
- Dahrendorf, Ralf (1990) Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: In a letter intended to have been sent to a gentleman in Warsaw. New York: Random House
- Dahrendorf, Ralf. (1979) Life chances: Approaches to Social and Political Theory. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, ISBN 0-297-77682-7
Works available in French
- Dahrendorf, Ralf. (1972) Classes et conflits de classes dans la société industrielle. (Introduction by Raymond Aron), Paris: Gallimard
Works available in German
- Die angewandte Aufklärung: Gesellschaft u. Soziologie in Amerika. Piper, München 1962
- Homo Sociologicus: ein Versuch zur Geschichte, Bedeutung und Kritik der Kategorie der sozialen Rolle. Westdeutscher Verlag, Köln/Opladen 1965
- Gesellschaft und Demokratie in Deutschland. Piper, München 1965
- Konflikt und Freiheit: auf dem Weg zur Dienstklassengesellschaft. Piper, München 1972, ISBN 3-492-01782-7
- Pfade aus Utopia: Arbeiten zur Theorie und Methode der Soziologie. Piper, München 1974, ISBN 3-492-00401-6
- Lebenschancen: Anläufe zur sozialen und politischen Theorie. Suhrkamp-Taschenbuch, Frankfurt a.M. 1979, ISBN 3-518-37059-6
- Die neue Freiheit: Überleben und Gerechtigkeit in einer veränderten Welt. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt a.M. 1980, ISBN 3-518-37123-1
- Die Chancen der Krise: über die Zukunft des Liberalismus. DVA, Stuttgart 1983, ISBN 3-421-06148-3
- Fragmente eines neuen Liberalismus. DVA, Stuttgart 1987, ISBN 3-421-06361-3
- Der moderne soziale Konflikt: Essay zur Politik der Freiheit. DVA, Stuttgart 1992, ISBN 3-421-06539-X
- Die Zukunft des Wohlfahrtsstaats. Verl. Neue Kritik, Frankfurt a.M. 1996
- Liberale und andere: Portraits. DVA, Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-421-06669-8
- Liberal und unabhängig: Gerd Bucerius und seine Zeit. Beck, München 2000, ISBN 3-406-46474-2
- Über Grenzen: Lebenserinnerungen. Beck, München 2002, ISBN 3-406-49338-6
- Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Ordnung: Vorlesungen zur Politik der Freiheit im 21. Jahrhundert. Beck, München 2003, ISBN 3-406-50540-6
- Der Wiederbeginn der Geschichte: vom Fall der Mauer zum Krieg im Irak; Reden und Aufsätze. Beck, München 2004, ISBN 3-406-51879-6
- Werner Bruns, Döring Walter (Hrsg): Der selbstbewusste Bürger. Bouvier Verlag
- Engagierte Beobachter. Die Intellektuellen und die Versuchungen der Zeit, Wien: Passagen Verlag 2005
- Versuchungen der Unfreiheit. Die Intellektuellen in Zeiten der Prüfung . München 2006, ISBN 3-406-54054-6
Awards and honours
- 1977: Honorary Degree (Doctor of Science) awarded by the University of Bath.
- 1982: Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
- 1989: Grand Cross with Star and Sash of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
- 1993: Life Peer (Baron Dahrendorf)
- 1997: Theodor-Heuss-Preis
- 1999: Medal of Merit of Baden-Württemberg
- 1999: Honorary Senator of the University of Hamburg
- 2002: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
- 2003: Pour le Mérite
- Contributions to liberal theory
- Dahrendorf hypothesis
- Karl Marx
- Max Weber
- structural functionalist
- Mann, Douglas (2008). A Survey of Modern Social Theory. Ontario, Canada: Oxford University Press. p. 42.
- Grimes, William. "Ralph Dahrendorf, Sociologist, Dies at 80 ", The New York Times, 22 June 2009. Accessed 10 October 2009.
- Stern, Fritz. "Five Germanys I have Known", pg. 225.
- Grimes, William. "Ralph Dahrendorf, Sociologist, Dies at 80 ", The New York Times, 22 June 2009. Accessed 22 June 2009.
- "Lord Dahrendorf". The Daily Telegraph (London). 18 June 2009. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
- Turner, Bryan (26 April 2010). Citizenship Studies 14 (2): 237. doi:10.1080/13621021003594973.
- "Emerald: Article Requests: Indefinite articles". Emerald Group Publishing. Retrieved 27 May 2009.
- "The FIRST International Award for Responsible Capitalism".
- WZB website
- "A time to speak out". The Guardian (London). 5 February 2007. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
- Pick, Hella. "Lord Dahrendorf, German sociologist and politician who became director of the LSE and a life peer ", The Guardian, 19 June 2009. Accessed 10 October 2009.
- "German sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf dead". EarthTimes / DPA. Retrieved 18 June 2009.
- Grabb, Edward G. "Theories of Social Inequality." Ontario: Harcourt Brace & Company. 1997
- Dahrendorf, Ralf."Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society." Stanford CA: Stanford University. 1959
- Mann, Douglas (2008). A Survey of Modern Social Theory. Ontario, Canada: Oxford University Press. p. 43.
- Ritzer, George (2008). Sociological Theory. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. p. 265.
- Ritzer, George (2008). Sociological Theory. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. p. 266.
- Ritzer, George (2008). Sociological Theory. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. p. 268.
- Robinson, Robert V.; Kelley, Jonathan (1979). "Class as Conceived by Marx and Dahrendorf: Effects on Income Inequality and Politics in the United States and Great Britain". American Sociological Review 44 (1): 38–58. JSTOR 2094817.
- Allan, Kenneth (2006). Contemporary Socialand Sociological Theory. California: Pine Forge Press. p. 164.
- Ritzer, George (2008). Sociological Theory. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. p. 269.
- Turner, Bryan (26 April 2010). Citizenship Studies 14 (2): 241. doi:10.1080/13621021003594973.
- Grabb, Edward G. "Theories of Social Inequality." Toronto: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston of Canada. 1984
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ralf Dahrendorf.|
- 2011 Dahrendorf Symposium - Changing the Debate on Europe – Moving Beyond Conventional Wisdoms
- 2011 Dahrendorf Symposium Blog
- Straddling Theory with Practice – Conversation with Sir Ralf Dahrendorf by Harry Kreisler of the Institute of International Studies; 4 April 1989
- Daily Telegraph obituary
- Biography at the Liberal Democrat History Group
- New York Times Obituary
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