Friday, May 8, 2015

Daniel Bell (May 10, 1919 â€" January 25, 2011) was an American sociologist, writer, editor, and professor emeritus at Harvard University, best known for his contributions to the study of post-industrialism. He has been described as "one of the leading American intellectuals of the postwar era." His three best known works are The End of Ideology, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society and The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism.


Early life

Daniel Bell was born in 1919 in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City. His parents, Benjamin and Anna Bolotsky, were Jewish immigrants originally from Eastern Europe. They worked in the garment industry.  His father died when he was eight months old, and he grew up poor living with relatives along with his mother and his older brother.  When he was 13 years old, the family's name was changed from Bolotsky to Bell.


Bell graduated from Stuyvesant High School and City College of New York with a bachelor's degree in science and social science in 1938, and studied for one year further at Columbia University (1938â€"1939). He spent most of the next twenty years as a journalist, but ultimately earned a Ph.D. from Columbia in 1960 even though Bell had never written a doctoral dissertation. According to Universal Microfilm International, Bell wrote a dissertation entitled "The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties" for a Ph.D. in Sociology from Columbia University. In 1960, it was published in hardcover.


Bell began his professional life as a journalist, being managing editor of The New Leader magazine (1941â€"1945), labor editor of Fortune (1948â€"1958) and later co-editor (with his college friend Irving Kristol) of The Public Interest magazine (1965â€"1973). In the late 1940s Bell was Instructor in the Social Sciences in the College of the University of Chicago. In 1960, Columbia awarded him a Ph.D.; in lieu of a dissertation Bell submitted "The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties," the title of his first book. Subsequently he taught sociology, first at Columbia (1959â€"1969) and then at Harvard until his retirement in 1990. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1964.

Bell also was the visiting Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at Cambridge University in 1987. He served as a member of the President’s Commission on Technology in 1964â€"1965 and as a member of the President’s Commission on a National Agenda for the 1980s in 1979.

Bell received honorary degrees from Harvard, the University of Chicago, fourteen other universities in the United States, Edinburgh Napier University, and Keio University in Japan. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Sociological Association in 1992, and the Talcott Parsons Prize for the Social Sciences from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1993. He was given the Tocqueville Award by the French government in 1995.

Bell was a director of Suntory Foundation and a scholar in residence of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Bell once described himself as a "socialist in economics, a liberal in politics, and a conservative in culture."


Daniel Bell

Bell is best known for his contributions to post-industrialism. His most influential books are The End of Ideology (1960), The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (1976) and The Coming of Post-Industrial Society (1973). Two of his books, the End of Ideology and the Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism were listed by the Times Literary Supplement as among the 100 most important books in the second half of the twentieth century. Besides Bell only Isaiah Berlin, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Albert Camus, George Orwell and Hannah Arendt, had two books so listed.

The End of Ideology

Main article: The End of Ideology

In The End of Ideology (1960), Bell suggests that the older grand humanistic ideologies derived from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are exhausted, and that new more parochial ideologies will soon arise.

The Coming of Post-Industrial Society

In The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting (1973), Bell outlined a new kind of society â€" the post-industrial society. He argued that post-industrialism would be information-led and service-oriented. Bell also argued that the post-industrial society would replace the industrial society as the dominant system. There are three components to a post-industrial society, according to Bell:

  • a shift from manufacturing to services
  • the centrality of the new science-based industries
  • the rise of new technical elites and the advent of a new principle of stratification.

Bell also conceptually differentiates between three aspects of the post-industrial society: data, or information describing the empirical world, information, or the organization of that data into meaningful systems and patterns such as statistical analysis, and knowledge, which Bell conceptualizes as the use of information to make judgments. Bell discussed the manuscript of The Coming of Post-Industrial Society with Talcott Parsons before its publication.

The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism

In The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (1976), Bell contends that the developments of 20th century capitalism have led to a contradiction between the cultural sphere of consumerist instant self-gratification and the demand, in the economic sphere, for hard-working, productive individuals. Bell articulates this through his "three realms" methodology, which divides modern society into the cultural, economic and political spheres. Bell's concern is that with the growth of the welfare state throughout the post-war years, the population is beginning to demand the state fulfill the hedonistic desires that the cultural sphere is encouraging. This dovetails with the ongoing requirement that the state maintain the kind of strong economic environment conducive to continual growth. For Bell, these competing, contradictory demands place excessive strain on the state that were manifest in the economic turbulence, fiscal pressure and political upheaval characteristic of the 1970s.

Personal life

Bell's son, David Bell, is a professor of French history at Princeton University, and his daughter, Jordy Bell, was an academic administrator and teacher of, among other things, U.S. Women's history at Marymount College, Tarrytown, New York, before her retirement in 2005.

Bell lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife Pearl Bell, a scholar of literary criticism. He died at home on January 25, 2011.

See also

Daniel Bell

Late capitalism

Selected bibliography

  • The New American Right (1955)
  • The End of Ideology (1960)
  • The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting, Daniel Bell. New York: Basic Books, 1973, ISBN 0-465-01281-7
  • The Revolution of Rising Entitlement (1975)
  • The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (1976)


Daniel Bell

Further reading

  • Brick, Howard (1986). Daniel Bell and the decline of intellectual radicalism : social theory and political reconciliation in the 1940s. Madison, Wis: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-10550-4. 
  • Liebowitz, Nathan (1985). Daniel Bell and the agony of modern liberalism. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-24279-8. 

External links

  • Bell's The End of Ideology chapter 13
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • bell&st=cse&scp=1 Daniel Bell, Master Builder. SAM TANENHAUS. NYTimes. February 3, 2011.
  • Arguing the World, 1998 PBS documentary film featuring Nathan Glazer, Irving Howe, Irving Kristol, and Bell
  • Speech by Daniel Bell on March 22, 1968, discussing the new character of American life. From the University of Alabama's Emphasis Symposium on Contemporary Issues.

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