Lewis A. Coser—A Stranger within More Than One Gate
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This article presents a short portrait of Lewis A. Coser (1913–2003), the American sociologist who became renowned as one of the founders of ‘conflict sociology’. Born in Berlin, Coser had to leave his homeland for political reasons and he spent the years before Nazi Germany’s invasion of France in Paris. Coser then fled to the United States and started his academic career there at the College of the University of Chicago. An abridged version of the PhD thesis he wrote at Columbia University was published as The Functions of Social Conflict, which earned him recognition, a promotion, and made him a figure of authority for sociologists in the 1960s. In this article the author draws on archival materials to examine Coser’s life, major publications and achievements. His intellectual trajectory from Marxism to Mertonian Functionalism, his strong commitment to a Weberian view of the separation of politics from scholarship, the breadth of his erudition in literature and classical sociological theory, and his lifelong place in New York intellectual circles and intellectual magazines made him an extraordinary figure even amongst his contemporaries.
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