The great Seymour Martin Lipset

+ More

Marty Lipset, one of the greatest political scientists in American history, has been disabled by a stroke. His work product over the course of nearly 50 years is immense: Punch in his name on Amazon.com and you get 3,321 results. Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute observes, "In the introduction to the festschrift they edited in honor of Marty, Larry Diamond and Gary Marks wrote, 'Throughout this century, and especially since World War II, no theme has more preoccupied the fields of comparative politics and political sociology than the nature, conditions, and possibilities of democracy. And no political scientist or sociologist has contributed more to advancing our thinking about democracy in all its dimensions, both comparatively and in the United States—than Seymour Martin Lipset.

"Marty published 'Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy' in 1959 in the American Political Science Review. Diamond and Marks said, 'Very few contributions on this theme have proven more seminal and durable over time.' The article asserted a direct relationship between economic development and democracy.

"The Democratic Century, published in 2004 by the University of Oklahoma Press, is based on three presentations Marty gave at the University of Oklahoma Julian Rothbaum Distinguished Lecture Series, and was expanded by Marty and Jason Lakin. It combines social, cultural, economic, and institutional analyses to explain why democracy has succeeded in some countries and failed in others. The book revisits theories from Marty's earlier works, including Political Man and Agrarian Socialism, and offers an overview of democratic systems." 'Over the course of his career, Marty's subjects have included political extremism, the sources and consequences of class structure, the links between social cleavages, party systems, and voter alignments, the relations between values and institutions, the dynamics of public opinion and public confidence in instututions, the political and social origins of socialism, protest, ethnic prejudice, anti-Semitism, trade unions, and the contrast between Canada and the United States.' "

Marty, who is 83 years old, is also a warm and generous man, and was always ready to tutor a humble journalist and to regale him with stories and statistics old and new.

In his honor, a series of Seymour Martin Lipset Lectures on Democracy in the World has been endowed, sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy and the University of Toronto Munk Centre for International Studies. The second such lecture will be delivered on November 2 at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Political scientist Francis Fukuyama will speak on "Identity, Immigration, and Liberal Democracy." It's appropriate that these lectures be delivered at the Canadian Embassy. More than any other political scientist, Marty wrote on Canada and on the differences between Canada and the United States. I note that the only one of our 20th-century presidents who took a great interest in Canada was Franklin Roosevelt and that the only politician of our times who took a great interest in Canada was Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Marty Lipset belongs in their company, and not only because of their shared interest in Canada but as a student and lover of our democracy.