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Richard Sennett

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Richard Sennett
Sennett in 2016
Born (1943-01-01) 1 January 1943 (age 81)
Known forStudies of social ties in cities
(m. 1987)
Scientific career
Academic advisorsDavid Riesman, Erik Erikson, Oscar Handlin

Richard Sennett OBE FBA FRSL (born 1 January 1943) is the Centennial Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and former University Professor of the Humanities at New York University. He is currently a Senior Fellow of the Center on Capitalism and Society at Columbia University.[1] Sennett has studied social ties in cities, and the effects of urban living on individuals in the modern world.

He has been a Fellow of The Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of the Royal Society of Literature. He is the founding director of the New York Institute for the Humanities.

Early life and education


Sennett grew up in the Cabrini Green housing project in Chicago,[2] to a Jewish[3] family of Russian emigres. As a child he trained in music, studying the cello and conducting, working with Claus Adam of the Juilliard String Quartet and the conductor Pierre Monteux. When a hand injury and botched operation to fix it[4] put an end to his musical career, he entered academia. He studied under David Riesman, Erik Erikson, and Oscar Handlin at Harvard, graduating with his Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization[5] in 1969.[6] His intellectual life as an urbanist came into focus during the time he spent as a fellow of the Joint Center for Urban Studies of Harvard and MIT.[7]



Sennett's scholarly writing centers on the development of cities, the nature of work in modern society, and the sociology of culture. Families Against the City, his earliest book, examines the relationship between family and work in 19th-century Chicago. A subsequent quartet of books explores urban life more largely: The Uses of Disorder, an essay on identity formation in cities; The Fall of Public Man, a history of public culture and public space, particularly in London, Paris, and New York in the 18th and 19th Centuries; The Conscience of the Eye, a study of how Renaissance urban design passed into modern city planning, and Flesh and Stone, an overview of the design of cities from ancient to modern times.[citation needed]

Another quartet of books is devoted to labor. The Hidden Injuries of Class is a study of class consciousness among working-class families in Boston; The Corrosion of Character explores how new forms of work are changing our communal and personal experience; Respect probes the relation of work and reforms of the welfare system; and The Culture of the New Capitalism provides an overview of these changes. Authority is an essay in political theory; it addresses the tools of interpretation by which we recast raw power into either legitimate or illegitimate authority.[citation needed]

Sennett is working on a project called 'Homo Faber,' exploring material ways of making culture. The first book in this series is The Craftsman, published in 2008; subsequent volumes are Together: The Rituals, Pleasures, and Politics of Cooperation, published in 2012, and Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City (2018) on the making of the urban environment.[8][9]

In the public realm, Sennett founded, and directed for a decade, the New York Institute of the Humanities at New York University. Sennett then chaired a United Nations commission on urban development and design.[10] As president of the American Council on Work,[11][12][13] Sennett led a forum, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, for researchers trying to understand the changing pattern of American labor. Most recently he helped create, and has chaired, the LSE Cities Programme at the London School of Economics. The Urban Age project also emerged as a product of the research and ideas by Sennett and others at LSE Cities. In 2006, he served as Chair of the jury of the Venice Biennale.

In 2024, Sennett published The Performer: Art, Life, Politics, which is intended as "the first in a trilogy of books on the fundamental DNA of human expression: performing, narrating, and imaging."[14] The Performer examines a wide range of human roles and interactions from nightclubs to political rallies throughout history to understand the role of performance in every human life.[15]

Personal life


Sennett has been married to sociologist Saskia Sassen since 1987.[2]



Selected works

  • Nineteenth Century Cities: Essays In The New Urban History, coauthor, Yale (1969)
  • Classic Essays on the Culture Of Cities, editor (1969), ISBN 0-13-135194-X
  • The Uses of Disorder: Personal Identity and City Life (1970), ISBN 0-393-30909-6
  • Families Against the City: Middle Class Homes of Industrial Chicago, 1872–1890, Harvard (1970), ISBN 0-674-29226-X
  • The Hidden Injuries of Class, with Jonathan Cobb, Knopf (1972), ISBN 0-393-31085-X
  • The Fall of Public Man, Knopf (1977), ISBN 0-14-100757-5
  • Authority (1980), ISBN 0-571-16189-8
  • The Conscience of the Eye: The design and social life of cities, Faber and Faber (1991), ISBN 0-393-30878-2
  • Flesh and Stone: The Body and the City In Western Civilization, Norton (1994), ISBN 0-393-31391-3
  • The Corrosion of Character, The Personal Consequences Of Work In the New Capitalism, Norton (1998), ISBN 0-393-31987-3
  • Respect in a World of Inequality, Penguin (2003), ISBN 0-393-32537-7
  • The Culture of the New Capitalism, Yale (2006), ISBN 0-300-11992-5
  • The Craftsman, Allen Lane (2008), ISBN 978-0-7139-9873-3
  • The Foreigner: Two Essays on Exile, Notting Hill (2011), ISBN 1-907903-08-9
  • Together: The Rituals, Pleasures, and Politics of Cooperation, Yale (2012), ISBN 0-300-11633-0
  • Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2018), ISBN 978-0-374-20033-6
  • The Quito Papers and the New Urban Agenda, Routledge (2018), ISBN 978-0-8153-7929-4
  • The Performer: Art, Life, Politics, Penguin (2024), ISBN 978-0-2416-3764-7


Literature on Richard Sennett

  • Dominik Skala: Urbanität als Humanität. Anthropologie und Sozialethik im Stadtdenken Richard Sennetts. Paderborn: Schoeningh (2015), ISBN 978-3-506-78394-3
  • Igor Pelgreffi: "Soggetto, tecnica, scrittura. Su How I write: Sociology as Literature di Richard Sennett ", in M. Iofrida (Eds) Officine Filosofiche, 2, Mucchi, Modena 2015, pp. 95–108 ISBN 978-88-7000-653-7
  • Igor Pelgreffi: "Qualità artigianale del lavoro. Elementi per un'antropologia filosofica in Richard Sennett", in M. Iofrida (Eds) Officine Filosofiche, 3, Mucchi, Modena 2016, pp. 95–108 ISBN 978-88-7000-707-7


  1. ^ "Richard Sennett | The Center on Capitalism and Society". capitalism.columbia.edu. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b Melissa Benn: "Inner-city scholar" in The Guardian, 3 February 2001
  3. ^ Sales, Ben (19 July 2019). "Senator's speech on 'cosmopolitan elites': Anti-Semitic dog whistle or poli-sci speak?". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  4. ^ Moore, Rowan (3 March 2024). "The Performer: Art, Life, Politics by Richard Sennett review – all the world's a stage, for better or worse". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 3 March 2024.
  5. ^ Station, Elizabeth (11 August 2011). "Life in practice". The University of Chicago Magazine. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  6. ^ "Past Centennial Medalists – The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences". Harvard University. 14 January 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  7. ^ London School of Economics: "Professor Richard Sennett", retrieved 25 May 2013
  8. ^ David Runciman: "Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Co-operation by Richard Sennett – review", in The Guardian, 3 February 2012
  9. ^ Building and Dwelling, Ethics for the City by Richard Sennett. Retrieved 29 January 2018 – via www.penguin.co.uk.
  10. ^ Richard Sennett Comes To Mit / Balzan Prize Finalist Will Relinquish Post at NYU – PLAN issue 62 published Oct, 2005
  11. ^ Sennett, Richard (11 May 2007). "Richard Sennett: An inferior Bill Clinton". the Guardian. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  12. ^ "Richard Sennett – The Center on Capitalism and Society". capitalism.columbia.edu. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  13. ^ "How do architecture and society interrelate? – Ditchley Foundation". www.ditchley.co.uk. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  14. ^ "The Performer". The Guardian Bookshop. Retrieved 3 March 2024.
  15. ^ Moore, Rowan (3 March 2024). "The Performer: Art, Life, Politics by Richard Sennett review – all the world's a stage, for better or worse". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 3 March 2024.
  16. ^ LSE: "Richard Sennett wins prestigious Hegel Prize", 30 November 2006
  17. ^ "Gerda Henkel Stiftung". www.gerda-henkel-stiftung.de.
  18. ^ "Richard Sennett to receive the Heinrich Tessenow Medal". Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  19. ^ Charles Veillon Foundation: [1], March 2016
  20. ^ "Record number of academics elected to British Academy | British Academy". British Academy. Retrieved 22 July 2018.