Sociology S.M. Lipset
Mildred A. Schwartz
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 September 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0114


Seymour Martin Lipset was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1922 and died in 2006. His parents were working-class Russian Jewish immigrants who provided formative influences that, along with his undergraduate education at the City College of New York, would continue to shape his intellectual journey. During an exceptionally productive career he taught at the University of Toronto, Columbia, Berkeley, Harvard (where he was the George D. Markham Professor of Government and Sociology), Stanford (George S. G. Munro Professor of Political Science and Sociology), and George Mason (Hazel Professor of Public Policy) universities. He held the presidencies of the American Sociological Association, the American Political Science Association, the International Society of Political Psychology, and the World Association for Public Opinion Research. He was also the recipient of numerous awards. Lipset adapted and elaborated the historical and comparative perspectives and interests of Alexis de Tocqueville, Karl Marx, and Max Weber into a broad-ranging political sociology that would have a profound influence on sociology and political science worldwide. His encompassing concern was in the conditions for democracy and, within that framework, Lipset included the nature of socialism, trade unions, universities, social stratification, political parties, religion, public opinion, and sources of American exceptionalism. He produced hundreds of widely cited works, translated into multiple languages. Venues for his interests extended from the United States to Canada, Latin America, Japan, Europe, and beyond.

Reference Works

Lipset 1996 is the best source for evaluating the scope of his work and revealing what remained constant and what changed. Lipset 1993 presents his own outlook on events in the university during a period of turmoil and explains his move from Berkeley to Harvard. Merton 1992 recalls Lipset as a graduate student and the origin of his interests. Schwartz 1992 gives a brief career overview at the time he became president of the American Sociological Association. Velasco 2004 reviews and assesses the connections among Lipset’s life and work. The introduction in Marks and Diamond 1992 points to the broader implications of Lipset’s work on democracy. They list all of Lipset’s publications between 1947 and 1991 and Lipset 1996 covers the remainder of 1991 until 1996. Publications of all kinds up until 2002 are compiled in Books, Monographs, and Pamphlets by Seymour Martin Lipset. Lipset’s Website contains his 1996 memoir, memorial tributes, and a bibliography ending in 2002 that will be updated to 2005.

  • Books, monographs, and pamphlets by Seymour Martin Lipset. 2003. American Sociologist 34.1–2: 131–154.

    Lists all publications until 2001.

  • Lipset, Seymour Martin. 1993. Rebellion in the university. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

    In the Introduction, Lipset describes his reactions to events during his tenure at Berkeley and the timing of his departure for Harvard.

  • Lipset, Seymour Martin. 1996. Steady work: An academic memoir. Annual Review of Sociology 22:1–27.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.soc.22.1.1

    Lipset’s own account of experiences and influences that shaped his work. Bibliography from 1991 to 1996.

  • Marks, Gary, and Larry Diamond, eds. 1992. Reexamining democracy: Essays in honor of Seymour Martin Lipset. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

    Complete bibliography up to 1991. Contributors assess aspects of Lipset’s work that relate to democracy.

  • Merton, Robert K. 1992. Forward: Notes on the young Lipset. In Reexamining democracy: Essays in honor of Seymour Martin Lipset. Edited by Gary Marks and Larry Diamond, 9–11. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

    Merton’s recollections when Lipset began as a student that reviews the trajectory of his interests.

  • Schwartz, Mildred A. 1992. Seymour Martin Lipset: The world is his oyster. Footnotes 20 (September): 1–12.

    Brief introduction to Lipset’s life and work.

  • Seymour Martin Lipset Website.

    Contains 1996 memoir, bibliography to 2002, memorial tributes, and information about namesake lecture series and American Political Science Association library. Website is active and bibliography will be updated.

  • Velasco, Jesús. 2004. Seymour Martin Lipset: Life and work. Canadian Journal of Sociology 29.4 (Autumn): 583–601.

    DOI: 10.1353/cjs.2005.0010

    An assessment of the interaction between Lipset’s life and work enhanced by an interview with Lipset.

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