May 24, 2002
David Riesman, Thoughtful Pragmatist
The chief value that David Riesman, who just died at age 92, affirmed in his 1950 landmark study of American character, The Lonely Crowd, was autonomy -- neither glad-handing membership in an "other-directed" crowd, nor back-glancing retreat to an asceticism of the "inner-directed" fathers of the past, but a commitment to pursue one's own way.
In person, Riesman was nothing if not autonomous -- which meant, along the way, impolitic (though polite) and unpredictable (though deliberate).
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