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Neil Smelser
Neil Joseph Smelser

(1930-07-22)July 22, 1930
DiedOctober 2, 2017(2017-10-02) (aged 87)[1]
Academic background
Alma mater
Academic advisorsTalcott Parsons
Academic work
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Berkeley

Neil Joseph Smelser (1930–2017) was an American sociologist who served as professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. He was an active researcher from 1958 to 1994. His research was on collective behavior, sociological theory, economic sociology, sociology of education, social change, and comparative methods.[3] Among many lifetime achievements, Smelser "laid the foundations for economic sociology."[4]

Life career

Smelser was born in Kahoka, Missouri, on July 22, 1930. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University in 1952 in the Department of Social Relations.[5] From 1952 to 1954, he was a Rhodes scholar at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he studied economics, philosophy, and politics and was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree. During his first year of graduate school at the age of 24, he co-authored Economy and Society with Talcott Parsons, first published in 1956. He earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree in sociology from Harvard in 1958, and was a junior fellow of the Society of Fellows. He was given tenure a year after graduating from Harvard and joining Berkeley.[4] and, at the age of 31, he was the youngest editor of the American Sociological Review in 1961, just three years after coming to Berkeley.

He was the fifth director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences from 1994 to 2001. He retired in 1994 when he became an emeritus professor and died in Berkeley on October 2, 2017.[1][6]


Smelser's value added theory (or strain theory) argued that six elements were necessary for a particular kind of collective behaviour to emerge:



  1. ^ a b "In Memoriam: Neil Smelser passed away on October 2, 2017". UC Berkeley Sociology Department. University of California - Berkeley. Retrieved 23 August 2020.
  2. ^ a b Wuthnow, Robert (2004). "Trust as an Aspect of Social Structure". In Alexander, Jeffrey C.; Marx, Gary T.; Williams, Christine L. (eds.). Self, Social Structure, and Beliefs: Explorations in Sociology. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. pp. 145–146. ISBN 978-0-520-24137-4.
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  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ "Smelser's CV". Retrieved 28 July 2014.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Sociologist Neil Smelser, campus leader and Free Speech Movement diplomat, dies at 87". 2017-10-12.