Seymour Martin Lipset

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Seymour Martin Lipset
Born (1922-03-18)March 18, 1922
New York, New York, USA
Died December 31, 2006(2006-12-31) (aged 84)
Arlington, Virginia, USA
Occupation Political sociologist

Seymour Martin Lipset (March 18, 1922 – December 31, 2006) was an American political sociologist, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, and the Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University. His major work was in the fields of political sociology, trade union organization, social stratification, public opinion, and the sociology of intellectual life. He also wrote extensively about the conditions for democracy in comparative perspective.

Early life and education[edit]

Lipset was born in New York City, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants. He graduated from City College of New York, where he was an anti-Stalinist leftist, and later became National Chairman of the Young People's Socialist League. He received a doctorate in sociology from Columbia University in 1949. Before that he taught at the University of Toronto.

Academic career[edit]

Lipset was the Caroline S.G. Munro Professor of Political Science and Sociology at Stanford University from 1975 to 1990, and then became the George D. Markham Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University. He also taught at Columbia University, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Toronto.

Lipset was a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He was the only person to have been President of both the American Political Science Association (1979–80) and the American Sociological Association (1992–93). He also served as the President of the International Society of Political Psychology, the Sociological Research Association, the World Association for Public Opinion Research, the Society for Comparative Research, and the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Society in Vienna.

Besides making substantial contributions to cleavage theory, with his partner Stein Rokkan, Lipset was one of the first proponents of the "theory of modernization", which holds that democracy is the direct result of economic growth, and that “[t]he more well-to-do a nation, the greater the chances that it will sustain democracy.”[1]

Lipset received the MacIver Prize for Political Man (1960) and, in 1970, the Gunnar Myrdal Prize for The Politics of Unreason.

Public affairs[edit]

Lipset left the Socialist Party in 1960 and later described himself as a centrist, deeply influenced by Alexis de Tocqueville, George Washington, Aristotle, and Max Weber. He became active within the of the Democratic Party's conservative wing, and was one of the 'original neoconservatives', a small group of public intellectuals who were the first to be called neoconservatives.[2][3]

Lipset was a director of the United States Institute of Peace, a board member of the Albert Shanker Institute, a member of the U.S. Board of Foreign Scholarships, co-chair of the Committee for Labor Law Reform, co-chair of the Committee for an Effective UNESCO, and consultant to the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Humanities Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the American Jewish Committee.

Lipset was a strong supporter of the state of Israel, and was President of the American Professors for Peace in the Middle East, chair of the National B'nai B'rith Hillel Commission and the Faculty Advisory Cabinet of the United Jewish Appeal, and co-chair of the Executive Committee of the International Center for Peace in the Middle East. He worked for years on seeking solution for the Israeli Palestinian conflict as part of his larger project of research on the factors that allow societies to sustain stable and peaceful democracies. His work focused on the way in which high levels of socioeconomic development created the preconditions for democracy (see also Amartya Sen's work), and the consequences of democracy for peace.[4]


Lipset's book The First New Nation was a finalist for the National Book Award. He was also awarded the Townsend Harris and Margaret Byrd Dawson Medals for significant achievement, the Northern Telecom-International Council for Canadian Studies Gold Medal, and the Leon Epstein Prize in Comparative Politics by the American Political Science Association. He received the Marshall Sklare Award for distinction in Jewish studies and, in 1997, he was awarded the Helen Dinnerman Prize by the World Association for Public Opinion Research.

Personal life[edit]

Lipset's first wife, Elsie, died in 1987. She was the mother of his three children, David, Daniel, and Cici. David Lipset is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota. In addition to his three children, and six grandchildren, Lipset was survived by his second wife, Sydnee, whom he married in 1990.

Selected works[edit]


  1. ^ Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy, Seymour Martin Lipset, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 53, No. 1. (Mar. 1959), pp. 69–105. Stable URL:
  2. ^ Seymour Martin Lipset, Sociologist, Dies at 84
  3. ^ The Neoconservative Invention
  4. ^ Metta Spence, "Lipset's Gift to Peace Workers: On Getting and Keeping Democracy

External links[edit]

Educational offices
Preceded by
Charles E. Lindblom
President of the American Political Science Association
1981 – 1982
Succeeded by
William H. Riker