Neil Smelser, 1930–2017

October 18, 2017

The Russell Sage Foundation is saddened to report the passing of sociologist Neil Smelser, who served on the foundation's board of trustees from 1990 to 2000, co-edited the RSF book Leading Edges in Social and Behavioral Science (1990), and contributed to the RSF volume After Parsons (2005).

Smelser was emeritus professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was known for his work on behavioral science and his role as a liaison between the university administration and student groups during the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s. He also served as director of Stanford University's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences from 1994-2001. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, and was elected president of the American Sociological Association in 1997. He earned his B.A. and Ph.D from Harvard University, and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University from 1952-1954.

Smelser's published works include Economy and Society (1956), Theory of Collective Behavior (1962), The Sociology of Economic Life (1963), Social Paralysis and Social Change (1991), The Social Edges of Psychoanalysis (1998), and Dynamics of the Contemporary University (2013).

Read the full obituary from the University of California, Berkeley.

Read tributes to Smelser from his colleagues and students.


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