The Lonely Crowd: David Riesman and American Society

  • Christopher Brookeman
Part of the The Contemporary United States book series


The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character, was published in 1950. It belongs to a particular genre of sociological investigation that aimed to describe and predict the future shape and ideology of post-war America. Looking back at the book in 1961, David Riesman questioned a major assumption of the book that ‘took for granted an economy of abundance, however sustained’.1 This assumption coloured a whole range of investigations into the ideology of what was seen as the post- or advanced industrial civilisation that was taking shape in America. The distinctive characteristics of a post-industrial society included an increasing automation of labour, the shift of jobs and productivity from declining manufacturing industries to an increasingly dominant sector of service industries such as computers and insurance, from blue-collar to white-collar occupations. A corollary of this thesis was that the main problem for such a society that was relieving man from the necessities of crude physical work was how to occupy oneself in a society that was creating more time for leisure than for work. The post-industrial thesis was subjected to a whole range of revisionary critiques from Paul Goodman’s Growing up Absurd (1960), that examined the psychological costs of a world without meaningful work, to C. Wright Mill’s analysis in The Power Elite (1956), of how power in a post-industrial society would pass into the hands of three linked groups: corporation capitalists, militarists and politicians.


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Selected Bibliography

  1. Paul Goodman, Growing Up Absurd: Problems of Youth in the Organized System (London: Victor Gollancz, 1961).Google Scholar
  2. Seymour Martin Lipset and Leo Lowenthal (eds), Culture and Social Character: The Work of David Riesman Reviewed (New York: Free Press, 1961).Google Scholar
  3. C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite: On the Ruling Groups in the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1956).Google Scholar
  4. David Riesman, Individualism Reconsidered, and other essays (Glencoe, Illinois: Free Press, 1954).Google Scholar
  5. David Riesman, Abundance for What?, and other essays (London: Chatto & Windus, 1964).Google Scholar
  6. David Riesman, The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, revised edition, 1970).Google Scholar
  7. Edward Joseph Shoben Jr, Lionel Trilling (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1981).Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Christopher Brookeman 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Brookeman

There are no affiliations available

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