Apter, David Ernest

views updated


APTER, DAVID ERNEST (1924– ), U.S. political scientist and expert on African political institutions. His book The Gold Coast in Transition (1955) received such wide acclaim that it has been reprinted several times as Ghana in Transition. Apter's later work on Uganda, The Political Kingdom in Uganda: A Study in Bureaucratic Nationalism (1961), considers the nature of secular nationalism in Africa. He constructed a general theory of modernization forecasting changes in the political systems in the African continent and the direction in which they were likely to move.

Apter, who graduated from Princeton University in 1954, was one of the first American doctoral students to focus his research on the African independence movements; and under the Kennedy Administration, he was asked to head up the Peace Corps' first program in Africa. He taught political science at Northwestern University (1955–57) and at the University of Chicago (1957–61). In 1961 he was appointed professor of political science at the University of California at Berkeley, where he served as associate professor (1961–62) and acting director (1964–66) and then director of the Institute of International Studies (1966–67). A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he joined the faculty of Yale University in 1969 and taught there until 2000. He served as director of the Division of Social Sciences (1978–82), chair of the Department of Sociology (1997–99), and chair of the Council on African Studies (1995–99).

During his teaching career, Apter was honored with visiting appointments at major universities in France, Britain, Holland, and Africa. As an international scholar, he also wrote about Latin America, Europe, China, and Japan. Many of his books have been reprinted numerous times and translated into various languages. His prize-winning contributions to social and political theory include his seminal work The Politics of Modernization (1965), which set the agenda for an entire generation in the study of comparative democratization. Other books include Approaches to the Study of Modernization (1968); Choice and the Politics of Allocation (1971), winner of the Woodrow Wilson Award of the American Political Science Association for best book of the year in political science and international studies; Anarchism Today (1971); Contemporary Analytical Theory (1972); Introduction to Political Analysis (1977); Rethinking Development (1987); Against the State (1990); Political Development and the New Realism in Sub-Saharan Africa (1994); Revolutionary Discourse in Mao's Republic (1994); Social Protest and Social Change (1995); The Legitimization of Violence (1997); and The Political Kingdom in Uganda (1997).

Yale granted Apter emeritus status, naming him the Henry J. Heinz ii Professor Emeritus of Comparative Political and Social Development. As such, he is an avid participant of the Henry Koerner Center for Emeritus Faculty. Established in 2003, the Center serves as a base for Yale's retired professors and administrators to bring them back into the mainstream life of the university. Apter believes that his generation of retired professors possesses qualities that other generations lack, as many of his colleagues came to academia after surviving the Depression and World War ii. That generation of faculty members, he attests, also brought greater ethnic diversity to a teaching staff that had been "classically Ivy League."

[Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]