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Neil Smelser

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Neil Smelser

July 22, 1930 (age 85) Kahoka, Missouri (

University of California-Berkeley

Alma mater
Harvard University (B.A.) Oxford University (B.A.) Harvard University (Ph.D.)

Guggenheim Fellowship for Social Sciences, US & Canada

Known for
Economic sociology, Political sociology

Theory of collective behavior, The Faces of Terrorism, Usable Social Science, Dynamics of the Contemp, Social Change in the Indust

Similar People
Richard Swedberg, Talcott Parsons, Jeffrey C Alexander, Richard Munch, Seymour Martin Lipset

Harvard University (1958)

Academic advisors
Talcott Parsons

Conversations with history neil smelser

Neil Joseph Smelser (born July 22, 1930, Kahoka, Missouri) is an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. He was an active researcher from 1958 to 1994. His research has been on collective behavior, sociological theory, economic sociology, sociology of education, social change, and comparative methods. Among many lifetime achievements, Smelser " laid the foundations for economic sociology."


Neil Smelser Neil J Smelser How Rhodes Scholars Think

Neil smelser

Education and career

Neil Smelser Conversations with History Neil Smelser YouTube

He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University in 1952 in the Department of Social Relations. From 1952-54, he was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University where he studied economics, philosophy, and politics and was award a B.A.. During his first year of graduate school at the age of 24, he co-authored Economy and Society with Talcott Parsons, first published in 1956. He earned his Ph.D in sociology from Harvard in 1958, and was a junior fellow of the Society of Fellows. He was given tenure a year after graduating from Harvard and joining Berkeley. and, at the age of 31, he was the youngest editor of the American Sociological Review in 1961, just 3 years after coming to Berkeley.

Neil Smelser Intellectual Odyssey with Neil Smelser Conversations with History

He was the fifth director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences from 1994-2001. He retired in 1994 and is now an emeritus professor.


Neil Smelser Conversation with Neil Smelser cover page

His value added theory (or strain theory) argued that six elements were necessary for a particular kind of collective behaviour to emerge:

  • Structural conduciveness - things that make or allow certain behaviors possible (e.g. spatial proximity)
  • Structural strain - something (inequality, injustice) must strain society
  • Generalized belief - explanation; participants have to come to an understanding of what the problem is
  • Precipitating factors - spark to ignite the flame
  • Mobilization for action - people need to become organized
  • Failure of social control - how the authorities react (or don't)
  • Publications

  • Economy and Society: A Study in the Integration of Economic and Social Theory. (with Talcott Parsons) (1956)
  • Theory of Collective Behavior. (1962)
  • The Sociology of Economic Life. (1963)
  • Social Paralysis and Social Change: British Working-Class Education in the Nineteenth Century. (1991)
  • The Social Edges of Psychoanalysis. (1998)
  • Dynamics of the Contemporary University: Growth, Accretion, and Conflict. (2013)
  • References

    Neil Smelser Wikipedia