Seymour Martin Lipset (March 18, 1922 – December 31, 2006) was an Americansociologist. 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. A socialist in his early life, Lipset later moved to the right, and was often considered a neoconservative.
At his death in 2006, The Guardian called him "the leading theorist of democracy and American exceptionalism"; The New York Times said he was "a pre-eminent sociologist, political scientist and incisive theorist of American uniqueness"; and the Washington Post said he was "one of the most influential social scientists of the past half century."
He grew up in the Bronx among Irish, Italian and Jewish youth. "I was in that atmosphere where there was a lot of political talk," Lipset recalled, "but you never heard of Democrats or Republicans; the question was communists, socialists, Trotskyists, or anarchists. It was all sorts of different left wing groups." Seymour was active in the Young People's Socialist League, an organization of young Trotskyists. 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 PhD in sociology from Columbia University in 1949. Before that he taught at the University of Toronto.
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 states 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.” Lipset's modernization theory has continued to be a significant factor in academic discussions and research relating to democratic transitions.
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.
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.
Lipset's first wife, Elsie, died in 1987. She was the mother of his three children, David, Daniel, and Carola ("Cici"). David Lipset is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota. He had six grandchildren. Lipset was survived by his second wife, Sydnee Guyer (a director of the JCRC), whom he married in 1990.
At age 84, Lipset died as a result of complications following a stroke.
“The Rural Community and Political Leadership in Saskatchewan.” Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science 13.3 (1947): 410–428.
"Steady Work: An Academic Memoir", in Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 22, 1996 online version
"Economic Development and Democracy"
Lipset, and Fareed Zakaria. "This chapter asks what things might look like if the United States were on a different ideational and institutional path. What if the United States had instead adopted a parliamentary regime in 1789, as was actually proposed in the Virginia Plan (ie, the legislature would elect the executive)? How." in Anne Marie Cammisa and Paul Christopher Manuel, eds. The Path of American Public Policy: Comparative Perspectives (2013): 153–187.
^Lipset, Seymour Martin (March 1959). "Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy". The American Political Science Review. 53 (1): 69–105. doi:10.2307/1951731. JSTOR1951731.
^Spence, Metta. "Lipset's Gift to Peace Workers: On Getting and Keeping Democracy"
Falter, Jürgen W. "Radicalization of the middle classes or mobilization of the unpolitical? The theories of Seymour M. Lipset and Reinhard Bendix on the electoral support of the NSDAP in the light of recent research." Social Science Information 20.2 (1981): 389–430.
Grajales, Jesus Velasco. "Seymour Martin Lipset: Life and work." The Canadian Journal of Sociology 29.4 (2004): 583–601. online
Houtman, Dick. "Lipset and 'working-class' authoritarianism." American Sociologist 34.1 (2003): 85–103. online
McGovern, Patrick. "The young Lipset on the iron law of oligarchy: a taste of things to come1." British journal of sociology 61.s1 (2010): 29–42. online
Marks, Gary, and Larry Jay Diamond, eds. Reexamining democracy: essays in honor of Seymour Martin Lipset (Sage, 1992).
Marks, Gary, and Larry Diamond. "Seymour Martin Lipset and the study of democracy." American Behavioral Scientist 35.4/5 (1992): 352+.
Marx, Gary. "Travels with Marty: Seymour Martin Lipset as a Mentor," American Sociologist 37#4 (2006) pp. 76–83. online
Miller, Seymour M., and Frank Riessman. "'Working-Class Authoritarianism': A Critique of Lipset." British Journal of Sociology (1961) 15: 263–276. online
Smith, David E. ed. Lipset's Agrarian Socialism: A Re-examination (Saskatchewan Institute of Public Policy (SIPP) 2007).
Wiseman, Nelson. "Reading Prairie Politics: Morton, Lipset, Macpherson." International Journal of Canadian Studies 51 (2015): 7–26.