“Seymour Martin Lipset: In Memoriam”

By Juan J. Linz*

I was torn between writing on Marty’s contribution to the theory of the comparative study of democracy and a more personal memoir. Marty meant so much to me. He was a teacher, a mentor, a co-author, and above all a friend. I met him in September 1950 when I arrived with a fellowship at Columbia University and attended a seminar that he and Robert Lynd were teaching at Butler Hall. We could not have had more different backgrounds: his, New York City College radical politics, mine as a student of Law and Political Science in Madrid in Franco’s Spain. In spite of this, he took me under his wing, helped me to get a fellowship from Columbia for a second year, and since then was a continuous intellectual influence.

I became familiar with his background at get-togethers of old friends, reminiscing during the summers at Dartmouth. HisAgrarian Socialism had just appeared. Between the early 1950’s and 1958 I was in contact with him as his research assistant. On the basis of my reviews of French electoral sociology, we became co-authors with Paul Lazarsfeld and Allen Barton of a chapter on the psychology of voting. That essay was part of a large project of Bernard Berelson of a propositional inventory on political behavior, in which William Kornhauser was involved (leading to his book on mass society). It was difficult to agree on what a “proposition” was and what should go into an inventory. The Dartmouth library was an extraordinary resource. Marty also insisted that I should type – he was exhausted from reading my handwritten notes – and he even bought me a typewriter. This was an extraordinary contribution to my intellectual development. At the same time he was working with Martin Trow and James Coleman (a classmate of mine) on what became the book Union Democracy. I feel that the important theoretical contribution to the conditions for stable democracy in that work has been neglected, overshadowed by his classic comparative analysis of the relation between economic development and democracy. Union Democracy is neglected because it deals with a trade union, but it is really an analysis of conditions facilitating or making difficult democracy among different sectors of the International Typographical Union.

Under Marty’s guidance I started doing secondary analysis of survey data which led to tables in many of his papers and much of my subsequent work and that of my students. (In the papers I suspect I may have mistranslated some Dutch or Scandinavian sources on the basis of my German). Marty also got for us and for me sets of IBM cards from Doxa in Italy and from the Institut für Demoskopie of Allensbach. I ended up using the Demoskopie survey on the German election of 1953 for my dissertation. One of the results of this research was the relation between Marty and Elisabeth Noelle Neumann, his involvement in the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR), an organization of which he became president, and my own long-term friendship with Elisabeth and my later presidency in WAPOR. Marty was actively involved in the behavioral revolution in comparative politics, including comparative research with an emphasis on secondary analysis. Another example of his use of public opinion data to deal with a large problem is his work on The Confidence Gap (with William Schneider), a very interesting angle for the study of democracies.

While I was with Marty at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (1955-56), we completed a long manuscript on the political behavior of workers, businessmen, farmers, professionals, and white collars employees, which also dealt with the relation of politics to religion, and regional and other cleavages. The work was reproduced and many a professor probably taught a course on it and students probably studied it. However, both of us went in different directions; I was finishing my thesis and returned to Spain, and we never finished and published this work. When we met over the years we always regretted it.

I wish that his central contribution on the socioeconomic conditions favoring democracy should not overshadow his many other contributions to the study of democracy, the reading of his many other books and papers, the richness of his opus. Marty always reflected on the acute problems of his time, and how they could be a threat to democratic-liberal values. This led to an interest in fascism and the large number of his essays and books on political extremism and the radical right in the United States. With Richard Hofstadter and Daniel Bell, Lipset turned to the importance of status vs. class politics when class analysis could not explain the appeal of McCarthyism and radical right politics. This work also linked with scholarship on the politics of intellectuals (a theme dear to Michels) and academics. The student revolution that affected him directly at Berkeley led to considerable comparative writing on student politics in the late sixties and early seventies.

The basis of his intellectual contribution was not only his unique knowledge of U.S. and Canadian societies, but also his in-depth study of classics, particularly Michels, Ostrogorski, T.H. Marshall, Tocqueville and obviously Marx and Marxist thought. Although always an empiricist, he was also always striving for theoretical insight as well. The title and the interpretation of most readers of his book The First New Nation: The United States in Historical and Comparative Perspective is somewhat misleading, since more than half of the work is a comparative study of society and politics of Western nations. Beyond the comparison between the United States and Canada – a constant in his work- Lipset contrasts the United States and the United Kingdom, and includes Australia in the systematic comparison of “four Anglosaxon” democracies. The book also includes a comparison with France and Germany in an attempt to account for differences in the historic-sociological-political development of democracy in the West. In this rich and many faceted comparative sociological work, Tocqueville was an important inspiration and the macro-sociological use of the Parsonian pattern variables a major stimulus and point of departure. Today, there are few if any such broad comparative conceptual efforts in the study of democratization, and his work should serve as an inspiration for such an effort. The book certainly should not be remembered only for its outstanding analysis of the role of the charismatic George Washington in the institutionalization of democracy in the United States. Marty almost unconsciously shifted political sociology from a focus on the social bases of politics to the study of politics and society. Perhaps his emphasis on the role of Washington in the building of American democratic institutions was the most dramatic step in that direction.

One of Marty’s important contributions to sociology was his work on social stratification. It resulted in a reader with Reinhard Bendix, Class, Status and Power (picking up the title from Max Weber), that generations of graduate students studied. It led to a collaboration with Hans Zetterberg, Reinhard Bendix, and Natalie Rogoft in studies that were replicated in many countries. Lipset’s work is not only what he published, but research by his students and by scholars all over the world who read his work.

In his comparative analysis of democratic polities, Marty went far beyond the basic sociological approach based on the socio-economic structure of industrial societies. This was in part a result of discovering in his important work on comparative social mobility that rates of social mobility in the United States and Europe were not so different as to account for differences in political behavior. It was the incorporation (I know initially reluctantly) of a Parsonian analysis based on the pattern variables in the comparison of four Anglosaxon democracies in the First New Nation and the collaboration with Stein Rokkan in the study of party systems and voter alignments that expanded his horizon to emphasize the role of values and their historical development. This also resulted in growing attention to religion in politics.

A major contribution to the study of democracy has been his active role in the publishing and editing of the Encyclopedia of Democracy, which brought together many scholars with solid knowledge of many aspects of democratic politics and countries. Another ambitious project was on Democracy in Developing Countries, which led to the publication of volumes on democracies in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It started with a conference in Stanford and the responsibility for moving it ahead was taken up by his former student, Larry Diamond. The published volumes have been read by many scholars and students.

Lipset’s books are filled with footnotes with reference to studies all over the world documenting the point he is making, acknowledgements to colleagues who sent him data, commented on his drafts and were part of an international community of scholars. They obviously, in turn, benefited from those constant exchanges. Under his direction, political sociology became a cooperative international enterprise. He also made a great effort to respond to his critics in detail. In all this, he counted always on devoted research assistants who learned in the process how to do research and often became co-author of papers and books. I was one such assistant, for which I am most fortunate.

Marty was a kind person and a friend. Once in Berkeley, when I was down (and almost ready to throw in the towel), I went to his home. He took me with Elsie to San Francisco to the Hungry Eye to see Mort Sahl. The next day I was working again.

To finish with something that he wrote once about a junior colleague, “Marty was a scholar worthy of our admiration and affection and, in my case, of love.”

*Juan J. Linz is Sterling Professor Emeritus of Political and Social Science at Yale University.