Wilfred McClay: "David Riesman and the Misreading of the Fifties"
Wilfred M. McClay, Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center
David Riesman’s classic 1950 work of sociology, The Lonely Crowd, is also taken to be one of the most important and representative works of the postwar era. And yet, the book was, and has continued to be, misunderstood in surprising and significant ways, a misreading that in many respects mirrors the ways that both its contemporaries and subsequent historians and scholars chose to “read” the Fifties. My remarks will explore these conundrums, both in The Lonely Crowd and in the general culture, with a particular view of what a fresh line of historical and cultural interpretation might look like.
Wilfred M. McClay, a Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a widely acclaimed expert on American intellectual and cultural history. His activities at EPPC include co-directing the Evangelicals in Civic Life program. He is the SunTrust Bank Chair of Excellence in Humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he is also Professor of History. He was appointed in 2002 to the National Council on the Humanities, the advisory board for the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is also a Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.
Professor McClay has written several books, including The Masterless: Self and Society in Modern America (North Carolina, 1994), The Student’s Guide to U.S. History (ISI Books, 2001), and Religion Returns to the Public Square: Faith and Policy in America (Woodrow Wilson Center/Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003). He is currently at work on a biographical study of the American sociologist David Riesman, and is editing two collection of essays, one called Figures in the Carpet: Finding the Human Person in the American Past, which features sixteen essays by American historians on changing American understandings of self and person, and a collection of his own essays entitled Pieces of a Dream: Historical and Critical Essays.
Sponsored by Political Science. Contact: Tricia Peterson, x4117