Monday, December 29, 2008

Samuel P. Huntington, 1927-2008

This blog's general policy is not to note deaths, of notable people or otherwise, though I have made a couple of exceptions: see here and here.

In the case of Huntington, his fame/notoriety and the impact of his work warrant a link to the 'official' obituary: here.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link. I thought the Times piece on him (maybe it was just AP) was disappointing.

LFC said...

You're welcome. (I haven't read the Times piece yet, and I want to go back and read the Harvard obit again, more carefully.)

A purely anecdotal, serendipitous measure of Huntington's influence: I picked up the Fall 2008 issue of Dissent in a bookstore the other day, glanced at the lead article (Ignacio Walker, "The Three Lefts of Latin America") and right there on the first page is a reference to "Samuel Huntington's account of the three waves of democratization."

LFC said...

I've now read the official obit again, and would make a couple of remarks by way of addition. Best known today for the clash-of-civilizations thesis and his '04 book on U.S. national identity, Huntington was involved in a couple of earlier episodes (for lack of a better word) that, at least around the time when I was in college, seemed to have set back his reputation (in some circles at any rate). One was his stance on and quasi-official (advice-giving) role during the Vietnam War; the other was his '75 report to the Trilateral Commission, written w Michel Crozier and Joji Watanuki, which famously referred to the problem of 'democracy overload'.

I never took a Huntington course (regrettably) and have no more than the most cursory acquaintance w his work. But I can testify that he was not someone who was esp. admired by leftish and left-liberal undergraduates in the mid/late '70s. That may reflect more on said undergraduates than it does on Huntington, who according to the obit was very willing to engage w viewpoints that differed from his own. Hindsight is 20-20, and if I could roll the clock back a few decades & have a do-over, I probably would take a Huntington course.