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Robert Nisbet

Robert Nisbet

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Robert Alexander Nisbet (September 30, 1913, Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

 – September 9, 1996, Washington D.C.) was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 sociologist, professor at the University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

, Vice-Chancellor at the University of California, Riverside
University of California, Riverside
The University of California, Riverside, commonly known as UCR or UC Riverside, is a public research university and one of the ten general campuses of the University of California system. UCR is consistently ranked as one of the most ethnically and economically diverse universities in the United...

 and as the Albert Schweitzer Professor at Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

.

Life


Nisbet was born in Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles , with a population at the 2010 United States Census of 3,792,621, is the most populous city in California, USA and the second most populous in the United States, after New York City. It has an area of , and is located in Southern California...

 in 1913 and raised in the small California community of Maricopa
Maricopa, California
Maricopa is a city in Kern County, California, United States. Maricopa is located south-southeast of Taft, at an elevation of 883 feet . The population was 1,154 at the 2010 census, up from 1,111 at the 2000 census. Maricopa lies at the junction of Route 166 and Route 33...

, where his father managed a lumber yard. His studies at the Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

 culminated in a Ph.D.
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil , in English-speaking countries, is a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities...

 in sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 in 1939. His thesis was supervised by Frederick J. Teggart. At Berkeley, "Nisbet found a powerful defense of intermediate institutions in the conservative thought of 19th-century Europe. Nisbet saw in thinkers like Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke PC was an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher who, after moving to England, served for many years in the House of Commons of Great Britain as a member of the Whig party....

 and Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville was a French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution . In both of these works, he explored the effects of the rising equality of social conditions on the individual and the state in...

—then all but unknown in American scholarship-an argument on behalf of what he called 'conservative pluralism.'" He joined the faculty there in 1939.

After serving in the US Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, when he was stationed on Saipan in the Pacific theatre, Nisbet founded the Department of Sociology at Berkeley, and was briefly Chairman. Nisbet left an embroiled Berkeley in 1953 to become a dean
Dean (education)
In academic administration, a dean is a person with significant authority over a specific academic unit, or over a specific area of concern, or both...

 at the University of California, Riverside
University of California, Riverside
The University of California, Riverside, commonly known as UCR or UC Riverside, is a public research university and one of the ten general campuses of the University of California system. UCR is consistently ranked as one of the most ethnically and economically diverse universities in the United...

, and later a Vice-Chancellor. Nisbet remained in the University of California system until 1972, when he left for the University of Arizona
University of Arizona
The University of Arizona is a land-grant and space-grant public institution of higher education and research located in Tucson, Arizona, United States. The University of Arizona was the first university in the state of Arizona, founded in 1885...

 at Tucson
Tucson, Arizona
Tucson is a city in and the county seat of Pima County, Arizona, United States. The city is located 118 miles southeast of Phoenix and 60 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. The 2010 United States Census puts the city's population at 520,116 with a metropolitan area population at 1,020,200...

. Soon thereafter, he was appointed to the prestigious Albert Schweitzer
Albert Schweitzer
Albert Schweitzer OM was a German theologian, organist, philosopher, physician, and medical missionary. He was born in Kaysersberg in the province of Alsace-Lorraine, at that time part of the German Empire...

 Chair at Columbia
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

.

After retiring from Columbia in 1978, Nisbet continued his scholarly work for eight years at the American Enterprise Institute
American Enterprise Institute
The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research is a conservative think tank founded in 1943. Its stated mission is "to defend the principles and improve the institutions of American freedom and democratic capitalism—limited government, private enterprise, individual liberty and...

 in Washington D.C. In 1988, President Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

 asked him to deliver the Jefferson Lecture
Jefferson Lecture
The Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities is an honorary lecture series established in 1972 by the National Endowment for the Humanities . According to the NEH, the Lecture is "the highest honor the federal government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities."-History of...

 in Humanities, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities
National Endowment for the Humanities
The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal agency of the United States established by the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965 dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. The NEH is located at...

.

Ideas


Nisbet's first important work, The Quest for Community (New York: Oxford University Press, 1969)
he contended that modern social science's individualism denied an important human drive toward community as it left people without the aid of their fellows in combating the centralizing power of the national state.

He is seen as follower of Emile Durkheim in the understanding of modern sociocultural systems and their drift. Often identified with the political right, Nisbet began his career as a political liberal and never fully became a part of any conservative movement.

Brad Lowell Stone has written an intellectual biography of Robert Nisbet, published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute
Intercollegiate Studies Institute
The Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Inc., or ', is a non-profit educational organization founded in 1953 as the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists...

.

Nisbet was a contributor to Chronicles
Chronicles (magazine)
Chronicles is a U.S. monthly magazine published by the Rockford Institute. Its full current name is Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. The magazine is known for promoting anti-globalism, anti-intervention and anti-immigration stances within conservative politics, and is considered one of...

.

He was especially concerned with tracing the history and impact of the Idea of Progress
Idea of Progress
In historiography, the Idea of Progress is the theory that advances in technology, science, and social organization inevitably produce an improvement in the human condition. That is, people can become happier in terms of quality of life through economic development , and the application of science...

.

Books by Nisbet

  • 1953. The Quest for Community: A Study in the Ethics of Order and Freedom
  • 1966. The Sociological Tradition
  • 1968. Tradition and Revolt: Historical and Sociological Essays
  • 1969. Social Change and History: Aspects of the Western Theory of Development
  • 1970. The Social Bond: An Introduction to the Study of Society
  • 1971. The Degradation of the Academic Dogma: The University in America, 1945-1970
  • 1976. Sociology as an Art Form
  • 1973. The Social Philosophers: Community and Conflict in Western Thought
  • 1974. The Sociology of Emile Durkheim
  • 1975. The Twilight of Authority
  • 1980. History of the Idea of Progress
  • 1983. Prejudices: A Philosophical Dictionary
  • 1986. The Making of Modern Society
  • 1986. Conservatism: Dream and Reality
  • 1988. Roosevelt and Stalin: The Failed Courtship
  • 1988. The Present Age: Progress and Anarchy in Modern America
  • 1992. Teachers and Scholars: A Memoir of Berkeley in Depression and War

Articles by Robert Nisbet


Articles about Nisbet