Daniel Bell
Born(1919-05-10)May 10, 1919
DiedJanuary 25, 2011(2011-01-25) (aged 91)
Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Alma materCity College of New York Columbia University
Known forPost-industrialism
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Chicago
Columbia University
Harvard University
Doctoral studentsMustafa Emirbayer

Daniel Bell (May 10, 1919 – January 25, 2011)[1] was an American sociologist, writer, editor, and professor 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".[2] His three best known works are The End of Ideology, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, and The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism.[3]


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[4][5] immigrants, originally from Eastern Europe. They worked in the garment industry.[6]  His father died when he was eight months old, and he grew up poor,[7] living with relatives along with his mother and his older brother Leo.[8]  When he was 13 years old, the family's name was changed from Bolotsky to Bell.[6]


Bell was graduated from Stuyvesant High School. He received a bachelor's degree from the City College of New York in 1938, and completed graduate work at Columbia University during the 1938–1939 academic year.[2][8][9] He received a PhD in sociology from Columbia in 1961 after he was permitted to submit The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties (a 1960 essay collection), instead of a conventional doctoral dissertation.[10]


Bell began his professional life as a journalist, being managing editor of The New Leader magazine (1941–1945), labor editor of Fortune (1948–1958), and later, co-editor (with his college friend Irving Kristol) of The Public Interest magazine (1965–1973). In the late 1940s, Bell was an Instructor in the Social Sciences in the College of the University of Chicago. During the 1950s, it was close to the Congress for Cultural Freedom.[4] Subsequently, he taught sociology, first at Columbia (1959–1969) and then at Harvard until his retirement in 1990.[11] He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1964[12] and a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1978.[13]

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 1964–1965 and as a member of the President's Commission on a National Agenda for the 1980s in 1979.[14]

Bell served on the board of advisors for the Antioch Review, and published some of his most acclaimed essays in the magazine: "Crime as an American Way of Life" (1953), "Socialism: The Dream and the Reality" (1952), "Japanese Notebook" (1958), "Ethics and Evil: Frameworks for Twenty-First Century Culture" (2005), and "The Reconstruction of Liberal Education: A Foundational Syllabus" (2011).[15]

Bell received honorary degrees from Harvard, the University of Chicago, and fourteen other universities in the United States, as well as from 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.[16]

Bell was a director of Suntory Foundation[17] and a scholar in residence of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[4]

Bell once described himself as a "socialist in economics, a liberal in politics, and a conservative in culture."[18]


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),[19] and The Coming of Post-Industrial Society (1973).[20] 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.[21]

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. With the rise of affluent welfare states and institutionalized bargaining between different groups, Bell maintains, revolutionary movements that aim to overthrow liberal democracy will no longer be able to attract the working classes.[22]

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, 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:

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 twentieth-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.[23] 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, more and more of the population demand that the state fulfil the hedonistic desires which the cultural sphere encourages. That dovetails with the ongoing requirement for the state to maintain the kind of strong economic environment conducive to continual growth. For Bell, the competing, contradictory demands place excessive strain on the state that was manifest in the economic turbulence, fiscal pressure, and political upheaval characteristic of the 1970s.[24] Written at a time of significant shifts in U.S. politics, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism offers reasons for the crisis of post-war liberalism.[25]

Personal life

His first two marriages to Nora Potashnick and Elaine Graham ended in divorce.[4] In 1960,[4] Bell married Pearl Kazin, a scholar of literary criticism, and sister of Alfred Kazin.[26] She was also Jewish.[27] Bell's son, David Bell,[28] 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.[29]

He died at home in Cambridge, Massachusetts on January 25, 2011.[6][30]



Books (authored)

Books (edited)

Books contributions

Published lectures

See also


  1. ^ Daniel Bell, Harvard U. Sociologist, Is Dead at 91, The Chronicle of Higher Education], January 26, 2011
  2. ^ a b Durham Peters, John, and Simonson, Peter (eds.) Mass communication and American social thought: key texts, 1919–1968, pp. 364–65 (2004) (ISBN 978-0742528390)
  3. ^ Ahead of the curve, Schumpeter, The Economist, February 3, 2011
  4. ^ a b c d e Paul Buhle (26 January 2011). "Daniel Bell obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 September 2013.
  5. ^ Joseph Dorman (February 11, 2011). "Daniel Bell, 91, a Leading American Intellectual Who Eschewed Simplistic Labels". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved 19 September 2013.
  6. ^ a b c Kaufman, Michael T. (26 January 2011). Daniel Bell, Ardent Appraiser of Politics, Economics and Culture, Dies at 91, The New York Times
  7. ^ "Ahead of the curve". The Economist. 3 February 2011. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
  8. ^ a b Waters, Malcolm. Key Sociologists: Daniel Bell, pp. 13–16 (Routledge 1996) (ISBN 978-0415105774)
  9. ^ Allitt, Patrick, The Conservative Tradition. Part 3 of 3. p. 40 (The Teaching Company 2009) (ISBN 1598035509)
  10. ^ "In Memoriam | Columbia College Today". www.college.columbia.edu. Archived from the original on 2022-01-23. Retrieved 2022-01-23.
  11. ^ Jumonville, Neil, ed. The New York intellectuals reader, Ch. 17 (2007) (ISBN 978-0415952651)
  12. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved May 30, 2011.
  13. ^ "APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Retrieved 2022-07-13.
  14. ^ Waters, Malcolm (2002). Daniel Bell. Routledge. p. 149. ISBN 978-1134845569.
  15. ^ "Daniel Bell, Noted Sociologist and Advisor to the Antioch Review, Dies | Antioch College". www.antiochcollege.edu. 9 August 2021. Archived from the original on 6 September 2017. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  16. ^ Danesi, Marcel (2013). Encyclopedia of Media and Communication. University of Toronto Press. p. 54. ISBN 978-1442611696.
  17. ^ Barnett, S. A. (2017-07-05). The Reforming of General Education: The Columbia Experience in Its National Setting. Routledge. p. 321. ISBN 978-1351475358.
  18. ^ Gardner, Martin. The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener, p. 427 (1999 paperback ed.)
  19. ^ Williams, Raymond. How can we sell the Protestant ethic at a psychedelic bazaar?: The Cultural Contradictions Of Capitalism (book review, The New York Times, February 1, 1976
  20. ^ Waters, Malcolm (2003), "Daniel Bell", in Ritzer, George (ed.), The Blackwell companion to major contemporary social theorists, Malden, Massachusetts Oxford: Blackwell, ISBN 978-1405105958, Waters identifies these as the "three works that made Bell famous" Also available as: Waters, Malcolm (2003). "Daniel Bell". Chapter 6. Daniel Bell. Wiley. pp. 154–177. doi:10.1002/9780470999912.ch7. ISBN 978-0470999912. Extract.
  21. ^ The hundred most influential books since the war, Times Literary Supplement, December 30, 2008
  22. ^ Strand, Daniel. No Alternatives: The End of Ideology in the 1950s and the Post-political World of the 1990s, pp. 140–145 (Stockholm University 2016) (ISBN 978-9176494837)
  23. ^ Liu, Eric. How Boomers Left Us With an Ethical Deficit, The Atlantic, September 24, 2010 ("When Daniel Bell wrote of the cultural contradictions of capitalism – that a self-denying work ethic leads to the affluence that gives rise to self-gratifying play ethic that ends up corroding the affluence – he could also have described the life cycle of the Boomers.")
  24. ^ Gilbert, Andrew (October 2013). "The culture crunch: Daniel Bell's The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism". Thesis Eleven. 118: 83–95. doi:10.1177/0725513613500383. S2CID 143463159.
  25. ^ Galbo, Joseph (Winter 2004). "From The Lonely Crowd to The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism and beyond: the shifting ground of liberal narratives". Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. 40 (1): 47–76. doi:10.1002/jhbs.10182.
  26. ^ Schudel, Matt (January 27, 2011). "Sociologist Foresaw Internet's Rise". The Washington Post.
  27. ^ Bloom, Alexander (1987). Prodigal Sons: The New York Intellectuals & Their World. Oxford University Press. p. 385. ISBN 978-0195051773.
  28. ^ Weddings; Donna Farber, David A. Bell, The New York Times, May 24, 1993
  29. ^ Alumni, The University of Chicago Magazine, Vol. 93, p. 41 (2000) (noting that Jordy Bell is associate academic dean at Marymount)
  30. ^ (26 January 2011). Daniel Bell, influential sociologist, dies at 91, Associated Press

Further reading