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Daniel A. Foss, American-Canadian sociologist, died at age 74 in Montréal, Canada on August 20, 2014 of complications from heart valve surgery.
Foss is considered by many to have been one of the most brilliant and creative minds of his generation. He graduated the Bronx High School of Science, Cornell University (Phi Beta Kappa), and received his PhD from Brandeis University in 1969. He was a student of Maurice Stein and Kurt Wolff. His doctoral dissertation, which was a treatise on the changing nature and structure of social movements was abridged and published as Freak Culture: Life Style and Politics (1972). As a graduate student, he wrote a devastating critique of functionalism titled, “The World View of Talcott Parsons,” in Sociology on Trial (Stein & Vidich, 1963). His academic career included the California Institute of the Arts, Livingston College, and the Newark College of Arts and Sciences campuses of Rutgers University.
As a scholar, although Foss was highly influenced by Karl Marx, he always let facts guide his work. He was not influenced by fads or trends; his work reflected the painstaking analysis of data from wherever it came from: historical research, books, journals, newspapers, magazines, media, surveys, participant observation, personal experience. All of his data was filtered through a critical consciousness that was fashioned from a deep understanding of great minds throughout history. At a meeting of left-leaning sociologists, he quoted the London Economist, known for its Tory views. In the question-and-answer session, a participant noted that the Economist was a right-wing magazine, to which Foss responded, “Yes, but it contains right-wing FACTS!” No source was too obscure or ideologically incorrect.
While he was an assistant professor at Rutgers-Newark, he met Ralph Larkin, who collaborated with him in research on the middle-class youth movement of the 1960s and post-social movement phenomena in the 1970s. Foss along with Larkin analyzed social movements in historical and comparative context. This resulted in the co-authored book, Beyond Revolution: A New Theory of Social Movements (1986).
Ever the student of social movements and social change, after leaving Rutgers University, Foss continued to explore an issue central to several fields of social sciences and history. He investigated how and why industrial capitalism developed in the West rather than in China, which had the beginnings of a technological revolution 200 years earlier than Europe. He read academic journals and books in history, economics, and the social sciences, seeking out answers to issues related to the processes of social, political, and technological development in Europe and Asia. He engaged in spirited debates about issues of social and historical development with other scholars in the field primarily through anthropology, archaeology, and history listservs.
He was a shrewd observer of contemporary social phenomena. He wrote critiques of contemporary capitalism, social movements, and social and technological development. He also found time to write satires of contemporary social relationships. He tried to look at contemporary social phenomena from the outside, or as he called it, “the Martian point of view.” The thrust of his research and writing in his later life was a synthesis encompassing the wider scope of social history rather than only the sociological. He had no concern for publication, which means that the bulk of his writings are somewhere in the Internet ether or in computer databases. My hope is that this treasure trove of the work of his genius will eventually be available to scholars around the world.
Daniel Foss is survived by his partner, Marsha Chuk, and his daughter Emily.Ralph W. Larkin, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the City University of New York
Albert K. Cohen, the noted criminologist whose work and life enlightened and inspired scholars and law enforcement practitioners around the world, passed away on November 25 in Chelsea, MA. Al was born in Boston on June 15, 1918. He graduated from the Boston Public Latin School in 1935 and from Harvard University in 1939 with high honors. At Harvard Al took courses from Pitrim Sorokin, Talcott Parsons, and Robert Merton.
Despite his outstanding academic record, Al was denied admission to most graduate programs to which he applied. One department explained they were not allowed to admit Jews. However, just as Al was preparing for a career in journalism, he was accepted by Indiana University. The sociology chair was Edwin H. Sutherland, whom Al described as another powerful influence on his intellectual development. Al received his MA in 1942 and worked for nine months at the Indiana Boys School, a state institution for juvenile delinquents.
Al then served as a lieutenant in the Army until June 1946, including one year in the Philippines, where he met and “instantly” fell in love with his future wife, Natividad Barrameda Manguerra (Nati), who worked at the Army’s Office of Information and Education. Al returned to Harvard spending one year in residence before leaving ABD to teach at Indiana University in 1947. Nati joined Al in 1948 and they were married in December. Al completed his thesis, Juvenile Delinquency and the Social Structure, and received his PhD in 1951. His most famous work, Delinquent Boys: the Culture of the Gang, considered an instant classic explanation of delinquency and gangs and a major breakthrough in criminological theory, was published in 1955. Al later wrote Deviance and Control, a textbook on the sociology of deviance, and published many scholarly papers in journals or as book chapters.
In 1965, Al moved from Indiana to become University Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut, where he taught until retiring in 1988. Al and Nati’s home in Storrs was always a warm and welcoming gathering place for faculty members, graduate students, and visiting scholars.
Al was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Palo Alto and a Visiting Professor or Visiting Scholar at the University of California-Berkeley, the University of California-Santa Cruz, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Arizona State University, the Institute of Criminology (Cambridge, England), Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), the University of Haifa, the University of the Philippines, and Kansai University. Al served as President of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, Vice-President of the American Society of Criminology (ASC), and actively involved in the American Sociological Association. In 1993, Al received the ASC’s Sutherland Award.
Al and Nati moved for the sake of her health first to Arizona and then to San Diego. Nati passed away there in 2003. Al moved back to Storrs, where his friends greatly enjoyed having dinners with him. Al was always in great physical shape. As a teenager in Boston he was adept at the art of running alongside a truck, hopping on to catch a ride, and jumping off as the truck slowed down anywhere near his destination. In Storrs he enjoyed walking many miles and, despite the distress of friends and family, kept hitchhiking into his 90s.
Amazingly, Al assisted in an FBI investigation. The FBI informed Al that a financial planner he was working with was suspected of stealing from him and others. Al consented to having his Storrs condominium bugged and the FBI gathered important evidence that, with Al’s testimony, led to the perpetrator’s conviction. Ever the criminologist, Al wanted to interview the incarcerated con man.
Anyone who met Al soon realized he had a tremendous love of life, enormous compassion, and an incredible wit and sense of humor. He kept everybody laughing at his jokes even while lying in a hospital bed. He loved to take pictures of flowers on his walks and enjoyed crafting all sorts of household items into pendants and other works of art. H also wrote many amusing poems. Al was enormously kind and helpful to everyone he knew. He was a strong supporter of the ACLU and contributed to many charities and to the universities where he studied and taught.
Al is survived by his loving niece Gerianne, who took great care of her beloved Uncle Al after he could no longer live independently, and by his nephews Richard Segal, Philip Segal, and Marc Cohen, his niece Cindy Peterson, and Al and Nati’s niece Therese Eckel.
Of all the attributes that we could ascribe to Al, that he was a distinguished sociologist and criminologist as well as a caring individual, the greatest accolade that we could bestow upon him was that he was a “mentsh” (or “mensch”). This is an English loan word borrowed from Yiddish and German, which, as noted in Wikipedia, means a person of “character, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible.…a high compliment, expressing the rarity and value of that individual’s qualities.” Surely, this is a term that Al would have recognized and one that we lovingly offer as a posthumous tribute.
We all love you and miss you, Al.
Al Cohen (University of Connecticut), Gerianne Cohen, Arnold Dashefsky (University of Connecticut), Jim DeFronzo (University of Connecticut) and Jungyun Gill (Stonehill College)