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by Doubleday Anchor
(first published 1954)
- Date of birth: September 22, 1909
- Died: May 10, 2002
- Born: in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, The United States.
- Description: David Riesman (born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 22, 1909; died in Binghamton, New York, May 10, 2002), was a United States sociologist, attorney, and educator.
After graduating from Harvard Law School, where he was a member of the Harvard Law Review, Riesman clerked for Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis from 1935-1936. He also taught at the University of Buffalo Law School.
Riesman's 1950 book, The Lonely Crowd, a sociological study of modern conformity, which postulates the existence of the "inner-directed" and "other-directed" personalities. Riesman argues that the character of post WWII American society impels individuals to "other-directedness", the preeminent example being modern suburbia, where individuals seek their neighbors approval and fear being outcast from their community. This lifestyle has a coercive effect, which compels people to abandon "inner-direction" of their lives, and induces them to take on the goals, ideology, likes, and dislikes of their community. Ironically, this creates a tightly grouped crowd of people that is yet incapable of truly fulfilling each other's desire for companionship. The book is considered a landmark study of American character. Riesman was a major public intellectual as well as a sociologist, representing an early example of what sociologists now call "public sociology."