Smelser, Nell Joseph

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SMELSER, NELL JOSEPH (1930– ), U.S. sociologist. Born in Kahoka, Missouri, Smelser received bachelor's degrees from Harvard University (1952) and Magdalen College, Oxford (1954) and a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1958. That year, he became a faculty member of the department of sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. After retiring from teaching, he became professor emeritus of sociology at Berkeley.

Smelser is one of the major representatives of a trend in American sociological theory that aims at the construction of systematic models as a guide to and determinant of concrete research. This provides the common denominator for many of Smelser's published works.

Smelser was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1968), the American Philosophical Society (1976), and the National Academy of Sciences (1993). In 1994 he was elected director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, an independent institution located on the campus of Stanford University. He had served on its board of trustees (1981 to 1993) and was chairman of the board (1985–86). He was also chairman of the center's Advisory Committee on Special Projects. In 1997 he was elected president of the American Sociological Association.

Smelser's books include Theory of Collective Behavior (1962), Economy and Society (with T. Parsons, 1956), Comparative Methods in the Social Sciences (1976), Social Paralysis and Social Change (1991), The Social Edges of Psychoanalysis (1999), and Discouraging Terrorism (2002). He edited the American Sociological Review (1962–1965), Social Structure and Mobility in Economic Development (with S.M. Lipset, 1966), Personality and Social Systems (with his brother, T. Smelser, 1963), Essays in Sociological Explanation (1968), Behavioral and Social Science (with Dean Gerstein, 1986), The Social Importance of Self-Esteem (with A. Mecca and J. Vasconcellos, 1989), The Handbook of Economic Sociology (with R. Swedberg, 1994), and The International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences (with P. Baltes, 2001).


J. Alexander, G. Marx and C. Williams (eds.), Self, Social Structure, and Beliefs (2004).

[Werner J. Cahnman /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]