Wednesday, May 21, 2008


David Riesman (1909-2002) Sociologist and Educator

If you've read any sociology at all, you've probably read David Riesman. In his important book The Lonely Crowd, he wrote of 'inner-directed' and 'other-directed' personalities. Riesman made a case that the character of post WWII American society pushed individuals to "other-directedness", the classic example being modern suburbia "where individuals seek their neighbors approval and fear being outcast from their community." Conformity was key, and the individual was being homogenized.

The Beatles in Germany, 1966

As a non-conformist of sorts, I always liked Riesman. Still, I think the good doctor missed the boat on Beatlemania. Riesman himself would admit he's the product of his own cultural time and place, his own social conditioning, his zeitgeist. In this 1964 interview he took the Fab Four for a passing fad. Of course, at the time of the interview the Beatles were a recent phenomenon, and we can't expect Riesman to enjoy our 20-20 hindsight. Still, it makes a fascinating read.

"Compared to the Elvis Presley craze, it is a very minor one. Presley created a definitely 'antiparent' outlook. His music—and he, himself—appeared somewhat insolent, slightly hoodlum."

Read the entire 1964 interview in the US News and World Report by clicking HERE.

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