The Lonely Crowd, by David Riesman, Nathan Glazer and Reuel Denney, was published in 1950. The authors argue that the social climate of the 1950s was characterized by conformity, a lack of individuality, the absence of personal responsibility and the desire for material wealth. These characteristics were not unique to that decade, but were manifested more prominently during this period than in other eras.
The book was based on an earlier work titled The Lonely Crowd: A Study of Changing American Character. The book focused on what it called “inner-directed” and “other-directed” personalities and how they influenced behavior.
Riesman developed these ideas into a theory he called “social character,” which classifies people according to two basic types: inner-directed and other-directed. Inner-directed people are self-sufficient and look inside themselves for guidance; others look outside themselves for guidance from others. He believed that these two types dominated American society at different times in history.
Last modified: September 24, 2022