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

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  301 Ratings  ·  27 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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Nov 15, 2008 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Richard by: Prof. Raymond Miller
Multiple updates, 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 s
Jun 23, 2010 Trevor rated it really liked it  ·  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
Jun 23, 2007 joseph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
May 16, 2011 Elly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 21, 2012 Liz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
...and the award for the most racist/sexist theory of human social development goes to...

I mean, I know that I'm being presentist and I'm ignoring more deeply-rooted critiques of the actual theory in the book... but some of Riesman's comments are really hard to read around.
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.
Jul 02, 2013 Deborah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Patrick Cook
Jan 10, 2017 Patrick Cook rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology
Riesman's central thesis is at least as relevant today as it was in 1950, when he first wrote it. He argues that, as societies grow numerically and economically, individual's sources of identity change. In traditional societies, people are oriented toward tradition (unsurprisingly) and may have very little conception of their individuality. The changes of European societies during the Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, and Industrial Revolution all led away from this and toward an concepti ...more
John Gillespie
Aug 06, 2013 John Gillespie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Cathy Faye
Mar 24, 2013 Cathy Faye rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Amanda Bowers
May 20, 2010 Amanda Bowers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 23, 2010 Kirk Kittell marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Recommended by Seth Godin in Linchpin .
Jul 27, 2014 Brad marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Art of Manliness - jeremiad rec
Lyndon Bailey
Outdated theories but the typologies still ring true today
Marius van Blerck
Read this a long long time ago ... before the music died.
Aug 01, 2015 William rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A truly excellent book for beginning the study of societal evolution.
Alanood Burhaima
Alanood Burhaima rated it really liked it
Apr 23, 2014
Casey rated it it was ok
Jan 18, 2009
Benjamin rated it it was amazing
Nov 28, 2015
Phạm Tiến
Phạm Tiến rated it really liked it
Oct 07, 2014
Jernej L
Jernej L rated it it was amazing
Sep 10, 2010
Jal rated it it was amazing
Aug 18, 2007
Thom Dunn
Thom Dunn rated it it was amazing
Jan 22, 2010
Adam Villarreal
Adam Villarreal rated it it was amazing
Jan 26, 2012
Michael Greening
Michael Greening rated it liked it
Feb 15, 2014
Kristen rated it really liked it
Jan 18, 2009
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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...

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