The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character (abridged edition with new preface)
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The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character (abridged edition with new preface)

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  197 ratings  ·  21 reviews
The Lonely Crowd is considered by many to be the most influential book of the twentieth century. Its now-classic analysis of the "new middle class" in terms of inner-directed and other-directed social character opened exciting new dimensions in our understanding of the psychological, political, and economic problems that confront the individual in contemporary American soc...more
Paperback, Abridged edition with 1960 preface, 315 pages
Published 1967 by Yale University Press (first published 1950)
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Apr 24, 2013 Richard rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Richard by: Prof. Raymond Miller
Updated, below.

I came across Reisman’s Lonely Crowd while studying International Relations, having stumbled on the important oft-neglected (but very dry and dense) writings of Max Weber and Thorstein Veblen, as well as Organization Man: The Book That Defined a Generation — all by way of the delightful writings of economist John Kenneth Galbraith.

Of all of these classic social studies, the one that seemed most prescient was The Lonely Crowd, with the discussion of social identification shifting f...more
Jul 17, 2010 Trevor rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Trevor by: Richard
I’ve started this review a couple of times now and I’m not sure this one is going to work any better than the others have. The main problem is that there is so much to say about this book that it is hard to not go on forever.

The key ideas here are that there are three main types of people in the world today: the traditional, the inner directed and the other directed. The traditional type is someone who could have been born at any time over the last 100,000 years or so. They are expected to live...more
truly describes our generations character. the fact that we're all on a website with our 'other-directed' receptors attune to see what books we should read next, pretty much proves the substance of this book - although it was written more to describe the new upper middle class mindset of the 1950s.
Peter Mcloughlin
Although this book is generated of a specific time and place some of it still holds water. Although the economic equality of the fifties has eroded and fallen back into gilded age extremes we still live in a consumer society where fitting in is still the most important think. Americans by and large are still what Reisman, Glazer and Denny as other directed. Unlike earlier Americans who looked inward towards their moral compass we depend on our peers for our values. We have a proliferation since...more
David Jenkins
When this book was published (in 1950, in paperback three years later, and a condensed version in 1961), it was not only widely admired by intellectuals but also a best-seller. Today, however, in the humble opinion of one reader who was blown away by it in 1954, it seems deplorably banal, full of meandering musings, murky abstractions, unsupported opinions and tiresome platitudes. Because of what I saw to be a fearless examination of the conformity and monotony of American society, it had an eno...more
Very good book that leaves you with a new look on society and looooots of questions. Basically the author's point is that poor people who have to work hard, have other worries than what other people think of them, and that this is actually the problem of the educated, sophisticated urban folks in affluent societies. This was something I figured out myself when I was 19 or so, so I almost jumped when I read it in one of the greatest sociology books of all time. Because most people today think abo...more
Inner-directed people vs other-directed persons

The other-directed person has no clear core of self to escape from; no clear line between production and consumption; between adjusting to the group and serving private interests; between work and play.

One interesting index of this is the decline of evening dress, especially among men, and conversely the invasion of the office by sport clothes. This looks like an offshoot of the cult of effortlessness and of course men say ‘it’s too much trouble’ in...more
John Gillespie
This was recommended to me during a discussion about Susan Cain's Quiet. Riesman's theory is an excellent complement to the more familiar Jungian concepts of introversion and extroversion that Cain discusses. He explores how societies in various stages of population growth or decline inculcate different orientations withing individuals. People in a tradition-directed society get their ideas of how to live directly from cultural institutions and authorities. As the civilization grows larger, valu...more
Jan Notzon
It was quite interesting but I almost gave up. I feel like it would be a very enjoyable book for people with a PhD in sociology. For a slug like me it was a bit of a grind. I would get lost in some of the analogies and conclusions he draws.
Seemed to me he made some assumptions about people's familiarity with the subject.
Megan Salyer

This book is incredibly dry and hard to get through. Also, I don't agree with most of his theories. He says traditional people don't think past filling their parents shoes as far as "just find a job and have a family". My grandparents would have been considered traditional to this dude and it makes me feel as though he has never spoken to a number of individuals. Everyone has a unique entity about them in every state of society and everyone wants to get by while still having some fun. Id have t...more
Jul 27, 2014 Brad marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Art of Manliness - jeremiad rec
Cathy Faye
I picked this up in a used bookstore many years ago and tried to read it a few times. It is difficult. But, finally picked it up again and really enjoyed it this time. Written in the 50s, but such an apt characterization of the US today. Depressing, interesting, and really relevant. It's also interesting to me that in this descriptive, sociological, political commentary, you see so much of what social psychologists were doing at the same time using a completely different approach.
Amanda Bowers
Pretty dense, dry, but amazingly prescient. His theory, in a nutshell, is that people's personalities and ways of relating to each other are highly influenced by where society is in terms of its growth cycle during the time they are born and raised. Yeah, that's a bad summary, but it's pretty amazing stuff and you should read it, at least some of it, as it's very enlightening.
Kirk Kittell
Recommended by Seth Godin in Linchpin .
Quang Nhật
The Autonomous Man in an Other-Directed World - Một bài viết mình nghĩ là khá hay dựa trên những ý tưởng từ The Lonely Crowd.
Matthew Matheson
Argueing the World: (documentary)
Daniel Bell
Nathan Glazer-3
Irving Howe
Irving Kristol
Jan 15, 2012 Brandy marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I'm going to have to come back to this one at a later time.
Marius van Blerck
Read this a long long time ago ... before the music died.
Jan 23, 2013 Dana marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
AAPOR list: Fifty Books That Have Shaped Public Opinion
Vasil Kolev
Pompous and boring.
May 13, 2013 Brad is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
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David Riesman (born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 22, 1909; died in Binghamton, New York, May 10, 2002), was a United States sociologist, attorney, and educator.

After graduating from Harvard Law School, where he was a member of the Harvard Law Review, Riesman clerked for Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis from 1935-1936. He also taught at the University of Buffalo Law School.

More about David Riesman...
On Higher Education: The Academic Enterprise in an Era of Rising Student Consumerism Individualism Reconsidered Thorstein Veblen Constraint and Variety Lonely Crowd

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