“Political Sociology is that branch of sociology which is concerned with the social causes and consequences of given power distributions within or between societies, and with the social and political conflicts that lead to changes in the allocation of power.
…Not all the interests and concerns of the political sociology can be illustrated in a volume of moderate size. I have nevertheless tried to present at least some of the research and theoretical orientations… “
– Lewis Coser, in the Introduction
"The small businessman, whether well off or barely squeaking by, lives in a chaotic world and is often faced with the threat of bankruptcy."
- Martin Trow, "Small Business, Tolerance and Support for McCarthy"
Lewis A. Coser
Lewis Alfred Coser (27 November 1913–8 July 2003) was a politically active sociologist who grappled with the social role of intellectuals in influential books, articles and speeches. Dr. Coser wrote or edited two dozen books; his doctoral dissertation became the book ''The Functions of Social Conflict,'' a mainstay of post-World War II sociology.
Born in Berlin as Ludwig Cohen, Coser was the first sociologist to try to bring together structural functionalism and conflict theory; his work was focused on finding the functions of social conflict. Coser argued - with Georg Simmel - that conflict might serve to solidify a loosely structured group. In a society that seems to be disintegrating, conflict with another society, inter-group conflict, may restore the integrative core.
Conflicts also serve a communication function. Prior to conflict, groups may be unsure of their adversary’s position, but as a result of conflict, positions and boundaries between groups often become clarified, leaving individuals better able to decide on a proper course of action in relation to their adversary.
He sought to separate his leftist inclinations from his academic sociology. In 1954, with Irving Howe, he created the radical journal Dissent as he was editing a book of sociological theory.
He taught at the General College of the University of Chicago and the University of California. He founded the sociology department at Brandeis University and taught there for 15 years before joining the sociology department of the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
His interest in how intellectuals interact with real-world economic and power concerns was apparent in his 1966 book, ''Men of Ideas: A Sociologist's View,'' which amounted to a historical analysis of what has come to be called a public intellectual. Lewis S. Feuer in The New York Times Book Review called the book ''engaging, provocative.''