Coser, Lewis A(lfred) 1913-2003 (Louis Clair, Europicus)

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COSER, Lewis A(lfred) 1913-2003 (Louis Clair, Europicus)


See index for CA sketch: Born November 27, 1913, in Berlin, Germany; died July 8, 2003, in Cambridge, MA. Sociologist, educator, and author. Coser was a prominent sociologist with leftist leanings and was a cofounder of the important journal Dissent. Born Ludwig Cohen, his family changed its surname to shield themselves from the anti-Jewish sentiment growing in Germany. With Adolph Hitler's ascension to power, Coser fled to Paris, France, where he worked odd jobs, became active in socialist politics, and attended the Sorbonne. When World War II erupted, he was sent to an internment camp because he was German, even though he opposed the Nazis. Coser was fortunate, however, to obtain a passport to the United States in 1941, and, arriving in New York City, changed his first name to Louis. In America he worked at various jobs, some of which were government-related, and began contributing articles to Partisan Review, Politics, Nation, and other publications under the pseudonyms Louis Clair and Europicus. He then enrolled at Columbia University, where he earned his Ph.D. in sociology in 1954, four years after becoming a U.S. citizen. Along with Irving Howe, in 1954 he founded Dissent, an anti-establishment journal that remains in publication. During the 1950s and 1960s he taught sociology at Brandeis University, where he founded the department of sociology; he then moved to the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1968, where he remained until his retirement in 1987. Although Coser was definitely a socialist, he was not afraid to criticize the communists any more than he was afraid to attack greedy capitalist practices. He tried to remain neutral in his writings, which were often preoccupied with themes relating to the intellectual's role within society. In his later life he often fretted that the influence of intellectuals would diminish as scholars became increasingly absorbed into government and corporate organizations. After becoming professor emeritus Coser continued to teach as an adjunct professor of sociology at Boston College. Among his publications are The Functions of Social Conflict (1954), Men of Ideas: A Sociologist's View (1965), Masters of Sociological Thought (1970), and Refugee Scholars in America: Their Impact and Their Experiences (1984).



World of Sociology, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.

Writers Directory, 18th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2003.


Chicago Tribune, July 14, 2003, section 1, p. 14.

New York Times, July 12, 2003, p. A21.