David Matza (1960)


David Matza died in Berkeley on March 14. He was a brilliant sociologist who taught in the Berkeley department from 1960 until he retired in 1992. He is best known for his books on deviance and delinquency, Delinquency and Drift (1964) and Becoming Deviant (1969). He will be remembered by his students and colleagues as a deeply engaged sociologist.   

From Clarence Y. Lo. David’s passing is a great loss for me and other sociologists who are trying to meld committed scholarship with qualitative methods and historical, structural, and institutional analysis.  David supervised my dissertation on the social sources of the Truman administration’s military budgets during the Korean War.  His open mindedness was a high principle, and insisted that no sectarian, ideological, or theoretical line would be imposed on his students’ work, and that they could follow the trail of documents, the negotiated process, or their quirky hunches to whatever conclusions were warranted.   He challenged conventional academic wisdoms by taking as problematic  the reproduction of the entire global institutional order of Post World War II capitalism.  He helped us by practically demonstrating to us the relevance of the qualitative sociology of the time to such tasks as interpreting historical documents and thinking about presentation in bureaucratic politics and the micro processes in elite circles.  Matza insisted that for works such as Schumpeter’s Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, that we not only read them seriously and critique them, but also see them as integral to social construction of the institutional logic of the Postwar world.  I remember fondly his keying gesture, a wry smile, which was a welcome respite from the gravity of our intense labors.

From John Frey, M.D.  In the 80’s I took classes as a sociology major and found Prof Matza’s to be one of the best. A true social scientist, he transcended simple left/right world views. He saw that the political pendulum swings every 20 years or so. As an emergency room physician today, his focus on reality, apart from common and accepted filters, still informs and deepens my daily experience of people. Professor Matza - a great lecturer, a great thinker, and a great intellectual role model.

From Federico D'Agostino Ph.D (1987). I considered David Matza not only a brilliant and creative teacher but a close friend I used to visit any time I would come to Berkeley,I will miss him deeply and I will remember him with my students at University of Rome III were I teach sociology of deviance by using his perspective on Becoming Deviant. Any time I used to visit him at his home he would love to talk to me about political and existential issues with great passion. I share with our common friends like Troy Duster my sympathy for this painfull loss.

From Faruk Birtek. David Matza was an enormously intelligent person, generous, kind, and authentic. A most lovable person. Always brilliant in class. Best seminar I had in all my life was his which ı took with Carole Joffe in 1969 (?). It must have been preliminary to his outstanding last book. I adored him. I am very sorry. 

From Richard Weisman.  It’s taken a few days for this to sink in - that David Matza who was the professor I felt closest to as a graduate student in the 1960’s - is now deceased. David was the chair for my dissertation committee and I have no doubt that were it not for his complete faith in me that I would not have taken the risk I did with what was then an unconventional topic- witchcraft in Seventeenth Century Massachusetts. David was brilliant, approachable, humble, slightly tormented in the way that creative people usually are, and incapable of writing a sentence or putting forward an idea that was not utterly true to what he believed. I had the good fortune to audit his course while he was still in the process of formulating his master work - Becoming Deviant - and I was enthralled by lectures that articulated the shifts in perception that were taking place not just in sociology but in the society as a whole. For me and perhaps others, David would remain a model of academic integrity that I aspired to in my own work. This is a time of big losses from those glorious years in sociology at Berkeley. May the passion that David communicated in his work and the kindness that he demonstrated in his person live on in future generations of sociologists.

From Fred Block. In the early 1970’s, David Matza supervised my dissertation on the rise and fall of the Bretton Woods international monetary order. He wasn’t the obvious choice for this role since his own work had been in the area of deviance. But since I had burned bridges with some of the other potential mentors, David took me on as an act of solidarity. It was, however, not just kindness since David had begun doing research on the post-World War II strike wave and the politics of the Truman Administration. I don’t think he ever published that work, but we learned from each other in the process.

He was a terrific mentor. Most critically, he encouraged me to embark on a study that would only become a “legitimate” topic of sociological inquiry with the rebirth of economic sociology in the 1980’s. He read my drafts with great care and he offered feedback and invaluable support. I remain deeply grateful.

David was a serious intellectual always working to make sense of what was going on around him. His writings, even those just circulated to a few friends and colleagues, invariably contained flashes of his intellectual brilliance. He was always committed to a sociology that was not narrowly academic and along with his allies, he fought to assure that Berkeley Sociology would continue as a place where graduate students were able to do creative and original projects that defy the convention of “value free” social science.

From Magali Larson. I remember David Matza as a teacher, in the wild and brilliant seminar on sociology and activism –I do not remember the official name—that he taught and let us teach in 1971. David’s mind was acute and rapid, and so were his comments, always seasoned by such a keen sense of humor that he could seem cynical, at times. A colleague graduate student and I had to fight him, however, because we wanted to write our “Marxist-revisionist” paper together and he rightly insisted that he had to judge each of us alone.

I apologize for making this a much too personal note but, in truth, I remember David most vividly and with the deepest emotion as a close friend who talked about sociology and justice, about politics and art, about literature and life, and the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” No one told me funnier anecdotes about parenting than he did (and they were useful!) and I remember right the names he gave his daughters: Karen and Ina, saying that he could thus always think of Anna Karenina and his favorite novel. I could add many of his stories about what to do and not to do with babies, including how he came to meet my newborn bearing a gift for him and for the cat, because “sibling jealousy” is so pernicious. But these stories make me very sad because he is gone, and because I found it difficult to keep in touch after leaving Berkeley, beyond a few years.

I was able to check out what he had told me about Philadelphia and about Temple, where David had started teaching, and where I had decided to move after barely two years at Penn. I did talk to him about decisions and difficulties and he always helped to reduce unnecessary drama. I saw him four or five years ago for the last time.

David will be remembered for work that changed the ways in which we conceived of deviance and transgression. Others will talk about the field that he illuminated, so much better than I could. I would also like to remember that he looked like Marc Chagall and like Chagall created magic where it seemed most difficult to do so.

From Susan Takata (1983). I was so deeply saddened to hear of David Matza's passing.  David was on my orals exam committee and my dissertation committee.  As a graduate student, his brilliance always impressed me, and yet, he was the most approachable and down-to-earth professor in the Sociology Department (back in the late 70s/early 80s). When I first met David, I thought he was spacey. But, then I realized that he was in such deep thought. His office door was always open for his students. We would play with different theories and concepts. We just lost a major pillar in the field of deviant behavior as well as in juvenile delinquency. He was certainly one of a kind.

From Michael Kimmel. I was saddened to hear of David Matza's passing, especially so soon after that of Bob Blauner, his long time comrade.  David was an integral part of what became known as the "Gang of Four" in the department, the four professors who were most supportive and sympathetic to progressive student issues, especially during the last years of the war in Vietnam.  David was brilliant -- quirky and eccentric, always seeing things from multiple angles at once.  In conversations, he'd start to think, his eyes would gaze into the distance, and he'd twirl one of his curls as he mused.  Then a torrent of ideas, rapid fire, overflowing, would start pouring out.  As a first year student, I found it dazzling. 

From Teresa Arendell, '84. David Matza was one of my favorite professors during my time in the graduate program in the early and mid '80s.  I took graduate seminars and TA'd for him several times; I found him to be brilliant, quirky, and warm and supportive. His love of sociology was contagious. One of my favorite Matza stories was when a fairly strong earthquake hit while we were in a seminar classroom on the 4th floor of Barrows.  We all filed out of the building and waited on the lawn for awhile. When we returned to the room David was not there nor did he show up. The next week when we met he said, "Some think the captain should go down with the ship, but I don't. You're on your own.  Who wants to be in Barrows if disaster strikes?"  I hope David felt the good times outweighed the difficult ones during his last years.

From Jualynne Dodson. I was a student of David Mataza when the department began admitting more than token numbers of African American graduate students. I may have been the first female after Berkeley had a 100% attrition rate for Black women graduate students. Mataza was distinctively open and much less arrogant in his personal and professional posture. It was most appreciated and my research project on African American children's early education via "Pan African" ideas was give honorable respect and succeeded. It was a welcome difference from other faculty experiences that were so dismissive as to be offensive.  I credit David Mataza with helping me to maintain my sanity and complete the degree. Thank you David!!!

From Andrea Mallis. I remember sociology professor David Matza on so many different levels. I was a student of his in sociology in 1983 and have since become an astrologer. Looking at his chart, I see what made him so unique….an earthy Taurus who once held class outside Barrows Hall by the trees, complete with taking his Birkenstock sandals off. I knew I was not in NY anymore. But the life of the mind is what I’ll treasure and remember the most, blessed with 4 planets in intellectual Gemini, the life of the mind, and what a mind it was. Equally comfortable in the ivory tower, albeit an activist one, and the green grass of Cal campus, a fellow quirky New Yorker, he reminded me of home. His office hours were inspiring; being in the company of a brilliant mad (social) scientist was exhilarating, I sensed a kindred spirit. Timing is everything, being idealistic and wanting to change the world, Cal seemed a perfect fit for me, and the Institute for the Study of Social Change resonated even more. Berkeley on so many levels was a perfect fit and David embodied that energy. As above, so below, as David Matza transitioned during his 3rd Saturn Return, a cycle of endings and new beginnings….29, 58, 87. May the Goddess Bless, Blessed Be.