Nathan Glazer (1957)


Nathan Glazer, who taught in the Berkelery Sociology Department, 1957-58 and 1964-69, passed away on January 19 (2019) at the age of 95. 

From Ivan Light: In 1967, while still a graduate student at UCB, I was asked to review Beyond the Melting Pot by Daniel P. Moynihan and Nathan Glazer. for the Berkeley Journal of Sociology.  The result was"Ghetto Violence and the Growth of Negro Business" in which I proposed that these authors had been right to notice the surprising and unwholesome shortfall of "Negro-owned" business firms.  The world of social science rejected their observation. Indeed, just calling attention to it made Glazer and Moynihan exceedingly unpopular and, although, later in his career, Glazer endorsed affirmative action, he was always perceived as conservative in his views on race. Now, many years later, reflecting on his career, and regretting his demise, I must in truth affirm that Glazer and Moynihan  were correct in noticing and commenting upon the unusual and unwholesome ownership of retail stores in the black communities by non-black outsiders. Doing so, they continued the tradition of class analysis of African American communities that had been begun by St Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton in Black Metropolis, and continued by Franklin Frazier in Black Bourgeoisie. The topic had become too hot to handle in the 1960s and the world of social science veered into decades of in which class stratification in ethno-racial communities was a  tabu topic.  Some day Nathan Glazer will receive recognition as a brave scholar who spoke an unpopular truth.

From Peter Miller: Mensch, sage, and sociologist, Nathan Glazer wrote about social issues with humor and good sense rather than despair.

His contributions to 'the public interest', the title of a magazine he edited,are immeasurably great. From 'The Lonely Crowd' (co-authored with David Reisman and Rueul Denney), to 'Beyond the Melting Pot' (co-authored with Daniel Patrick Moynihan) and beyond, Glazer never gave up trying to make things work better.

Born in poverty, his affection for the poor of all races and ethnicities never deserted him, even as the practical policies he proposed discomforted ideologues. Nat Glazer had the courage to identify -- based on solid data -- culture and family as the keys to social advancement. He took on fashionable criminality like graffiti from the common-sense perspective of the New York subway rider who 'is assaulted continuously, not only by the evidence that every subway car has been vandalized, but by the inescapable knowledge that the environment he must endure for an hour or more a day is uncontrolled and uncontrollable, and that anyone can invade it to do whatever damage and mischief the mind suggests'. 

He dared to suggest that some monstrous Serra sculptures were 'attacking the awful [urban office buildings] by increasing the awfulness'. He loved New York, slums and all, especially Central Park, even going so far as to quote Khrushchev on Manhattan: "There is no greenery; it is enough to make a stone sad." Such a poetic thought from a Soviet Premier would amuse Glazer's Old-Left colleagues from City College if any remained. Nat Glazer's wit and wisdom, so rare today, will be sorely missed.

Many of his articles are archived here:  They are still relevant and worth reading today.

Peter Miller
Berkeley Sociology, PhD 1974.