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Barrington Moore Jr.

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Barrington Moore Jr.
Born(1913-05-12)May 12, 1913
DiedOctober 16, 2005(2005-10-16) (aged 92)
OccupationPolitical sociologist
Academic background
Alma materWilliams College
Yale University
Doctoral advisorAlbert Galloway Keller
Academic work
Doctoral studentsCharles Tilly, Theda Skocpol, John Mollenkopf, Jon Wiener

Barrington Moore Jr. (12 May 1913 – 16 October 2005)[1] was an American political sociologist, and the son of forester Barrington Moore.

He is well-known for his Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (1966), a comparative study of modernization in Britain, France, the United States, China, Japan, Russia, Germany, and India.[2] The book puts forth a neo-Marxist argument that class structures and class alliances at particular points in time can account for the kinds of social revolutions that occurred and did not occur in those countries, putting some countries on a path to democracy, whereas others were put on a path to authoritarianism or communism.[3][4] He famously argued, "no bourgeois, no democracy," which emphasized the important role played by a large middle-class in accomplishing democratization and ensuring democratic stability.[5]

Early life, education and career[edit]

Moore was born in Washington D.C. in 1913.[2]

He studied Latin, Greek, and history at Williams College in Massachusetts. He also became interested in political science, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He graduated in 1936.[2] In 1941, Moore obtained his Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University where he studied with Albert Galloway Keller.[6] He worked as a policy analyst at the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and at the Department of Justice.

Moore's academic career began in 1945 at the University of Chicago. In 1948 he went to Harvard University, joining the Russian Research Center in 1951. He was emerited in 1979.[2]

Moore's students at Harvard included comparative social scientists Theda Skocpol and Charles Tilly, urban sociologist John Mollenkopf,[7] as well as historian Jon Wiener.[8]

Personal life[edit]

While working at the OSS, Moore met his future wife, Elizabeth Ito, and Herbert Marcuse, who became a lifelong friend. Elizabeth died in 1992. They had no children.

Major works[edit]

Early in his academic career, Moore was a specialist on Russian politics and society, authoring his first book, Soviet Politics in 1950 and Terror and Progress, USSR in 1954.[2] In 1958 his book of six essays on methodology and theory, Political Power and Social Theory, attacked the methodological outlook of 1950s social science.

Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy[edit]

Moore's groundbreaking work Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (1966) was the cornerstone to what is now called comparative historical analysis in the social sciences.[9]

Moore's concern was the transformation of pre-industrial agrarian social relations into "modern" ones. He highlighted what he called "three routes to the modern world" - the liberal democratic, the fascist, and the communist - each deriving from the timing of industrialization and the social structure at the time of transition.

Moore challenged modernization theory by stressing that there was not one path to the modern world and that economic development did not always bring about democracy.[10]

He drew particular attention to the violence which preceded the development of democratic institutions.[11] Initially, Moore set out to study a large number of countries, but reduced his number of cases to eight.[11]

On tolerance[edit]

In 1965, Moore, Herbert Marcuse, and Robert Paul Wolff each authored an essay on the concept of tolerance and the three essays were collected in the book A Critique of Pure Tolerance. The title was a play on the title of Immanuel Kant's book Critique of Pure Reason. In the book Moore argues that academic research and society in general should adopt a strictly scientific and secular outlook and approach theories and conjectures with empirical verification.[12]


  • Barrington Moore, Jr. Soviet Politics – The Dilemma of Power: The Role of Ideas in Social Change, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1950.
  • Barrington Moore, Jr. Terror and Progress, USSR: Some Sources of Change and Stability in the Soviet Dictatorship, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1954.
  • Barrington Moore, Jr. Political Power and Social Theory: Six Studies, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1958. Erweiterte Ausgabe: Political Power and Social Theory: Seven Studies, Harper & Row, New York, 1965.
  • Barrington Moore, Jr., Robert Paul Wolff, Herbert Marcuse: A Critique of Pure Tolerance, Beacon Press, Boston, 1965.
  • Barrington Moore, Jr. Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World, Beacon Press, Boston, 1966. ISBN 0-8070-5073-3.
  • Barrington Moore, Jr. Reflections of the Causes of Human Misery and upon Certain Proposals to Eliminate Them, Beacon Press, Boston, 1972.
  • Barrington Moore, Jr. Injustice: The Social Bases of Obedience and Revolt, M.E. Sharpe, White Plains, NY, 1978. ISBN 0-333-24783-3.
  • Barrington Moore, Jr. Privacy: Studies in Social and Cultural History, M.E. Sharpe, Armonk, NY, 1983.
  • Barrington Moore, Jr. Authority and Inequality under Capitalism and Socialism: USA, USSR, and China (Tanner Lectures on Human Values), Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1987.
  • Barrington Moore, Jr. Moral Aspects of Economic Growth, and Other Essays (The Wilder House Series in Politics, History, and Culture), Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1998. ISBN 0-8014-3376-2
  • Barrington Moore, Jr.Moral Purity and Persecution in History, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2000. ISBN 0-691-04920-3.

Resources on Moore and his research[edit]

  • APSA Comparative Democratization. 2013. "Barrington Moore’s Centennial Legacy." Special issue of Comparative Democratization newsletter, with articles by Ziblatt, Stephens, Bernhard and Kopstein, Berman, and Snyder.[1]
  • Bernhard, Michael. 2016. “The Moore Thesis: What’s Left after 1989?” Democratization 23(1): 118–40.
  • Castles, Francis. 1973. “Barrington Moore’s Thesis and Swedish Political Development.” Government and Opposition 8(3): 313–31.
  • Huber, Evelyn and Frank Safford (eds.). 1995. Agrarian Structure and Political Power. Landlord and Peasant in the Making of Latin America. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
  • Kaye, Harvey. 1978. “Barrington Moore's Paths to Modernization: Are They Applicable to Latin America? Bulletin of the Society for Latin American Studies No. 28 (April): 24-40.
  • Mahoney, James. 2003. “Knowledge Accumulation in Comparative Historical Research: The Case of Democracy and Authoritarianism,” pp. 131–74, in James Mahoney and Dietrich Rueschemeyer (eds.), Comparative Historical Analysis in the Social Sciences. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Møller, Jørgen. 2017. State Formation, Regime Change, and Economic Development. London: Routledge Press, Chapter 6, "Barrington Moore and the Rebirth of the Discipline."
  • Munck, Gerardo L., and Richard Snyder. 2007. Passion, Craft and Method in Comparative Politics. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. [Interview with Barrington Moore, Jr.]
  • Paige, Jeffery M. 1990. “The Social Origins of Dictatorship, Democracy and Socialist Revolution in Central America,” Journal of Developing Societies Vol. 6 (January-April): 37-42.
  • Paige, Jeffery M. 1997. Coffee and Power: Revolution and the Rise of Democracy in Central America. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
  • Rueschemeyer, Dietrich Evelyne Stephens, and John D. Stephens. 1992. Capitalist Development and Democracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Samuels, D., & Thomson, H. 2021. "Lord, Peasant … and Tractor? Agricultural Mechanization, Moore’s Thesis, and the Emergence of Democracy". Perspectives on Politics 19(3): 739-53.
  • Skocpol, Theda. 1973. “A Critical Review of Barrington Moore's Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy,” Politics and Society 4 (1): 1-34.
  • Skocpol, Theda (ed.). 1998. Democracy, Revolution, and History. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  • Smith, Dennis. 1983. Barrington Moore: Violence, Morality and Political Change. London: Macmillan.
  • Smith, Dennis. 1984. “Discovering Facts and Values: The Historical Sociology of Barrington Moore,” pp. 313-55, in Theda Skocpol (ed.), Vision and Method in Historical Sociology. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Snyder, Richard. 2013. "The Uses and Abuses of Barrington Moore, Jr." APSA-CD: The Newsletter of the Comparative Democratization Section of the American Political Science Association (APSA) 11:13 (Winter).
  • Stephens, John D. 1989. “Democratic Transition and Breakdown in Europe, 1870-1939: A Test of the Moore Thesis.” American Journal of Sociology 94(5): 1019–77.
  • Valenzuela, J Samuel. 2001. “Class Relations and Democratization: A Reassessment of Barrington Moore’s Model,”pp. 240–86, in Miguel Angel Centeno and Fernando López-Alves (eds.), The Other Mirror: Grand Theory Through the Lens of Latin America. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
  • Wiener, J. M. 1976. “Review of Reviews,” History and Theory 15 (2): 146-75.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dennis Smith, "Obituary: Barrington Moore — Author of a daring sociological classic", The Independent, 17 November 2005, 59.
  2. ^ a b c d e Munck, Gerardo L.; Snyder, Richard (2007). Passion, Craft, and Method in Comparative Politics. Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 86–87. ISBN 978-0-8018-8464-1.
  3. ^ Skocpol, Theda (1973). "A Critical Review of Barrington Moore's Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy". Politics & Society. 4 (1): 1–34. doi:10.1177/003232927300400101. ISSN 0032-3292. S2CID 143910152.
  4. ^ Wiener, Jonathan M. (1975). "The Barrington Moore Thesis and Its Critics". Theory and Society. 2 (3): 301–330. doi:10.1007/BF00212740. ISSN 0304-2421. JSTOR 656776. S2CID 144204537.
  5. ^ "The Canon: The Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World". Times Higher Education (THE). 2009-11-12. Retrieved 2020-02-29.
  6. ^ "Barrington Moore Jr., 92, Harvard sociologist". Harvard Gazette. Cambridge, Massachusetts. October 27, 2005.
  7. ^ Mollenkopf, John (1983). The Contested City. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. ix. ISBN 0691076596.
  8. ^ Wiener, Jonathan M. (1978). Social origins of the new South : Alabama, 1860-1885. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. p. xi. ISBN 9780807103975.
  9. ^ Gerschewski, Johannes (2021). "Explanations of Institutional Change: Reflecting on a "Missing Diagonal"". American Political Science Review. 115: 218–233. doi:10.1017/S0003055420000751. hdl:10419/228451. ISSN 0003-0554.
  10. ^ Jørgen Møller, State Formation, Regime Change, and Economic Development. London: Routledge Press, 2017, Ch. 6.
  11. ^ a b Munck, Gerardo L.; Snyder, Richard (2007). Passion, Craft, and Method in Comparative Politics. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-8018-8464-1.
  12. ^ Moore, Barrington, Herbert Marcuse and Robert Paul Wolff, A Critique of Pure Tolerance (Boston: Beacon Press, 1965)