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May 10: Daniel Bell

May 9, 2016

6a00d8341d17e553ef014e5f6f4a26970c-piDaniel Bell (Bolotsky), one of the most well-known sociologists of post-war America, who once described himself as a “socialist in economics, a liberal in politics, and a conservative in culture,” was born in New York on this date in 1919. Bell was educated at City College and taught at Columbia and Harvard, from which he retired in 1990. His most influential books were The End of Ideology (1960), The Coming of Post-Industrial Society (1973), in which he accurately predicted the economic shift from manufacturing to service industries and the rise of science-based technological elites, and The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (1976). “In Mr. Bell’s view,” writes Michael T. Kaufman in the New York Times, “Western capitalism had come to rely on mass consumerism, acquisitiveness and widespread indebtedness, undermining the old Protestant ethic of thrift and modesty that writers... had long credited as the reasons for capitalism’s success.” Bell died at 91 in 2011.

“We will probably see a national information-computer-utility system, with tens of thousands of terminals in homes and offices ‘hooked’ into giant central computers providing library and information services, retail ordering and billing services, and the like.” —Daniel Bell, 1967