Richard Sennett

Richard Sennett  is a professor of humanities at New York University and a professor of sociology at the London School of Economics. He is the author of some of the most moving and insightful essays of our time, addressing issues like the recent, significant changes taking place in our workplaces, within the family, and among social classes.

How did Richard's career unfold? Get to know more about him and his life in the following article.

I. Richard Sennett biography 

He has held fellowships with the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society of Literature, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. The New York Institute for the Humanities' founding director, he. Sennett has won several awards, including the Hegel Prize from the German city of Stuttgart in 2006, the Gerda Henkel Prize from the Gerda Henkel Foundation in Düsseldorf in 2008, and the European Essay Prize from the Charles Veillon Foundation in Lausanne in 2016.

Who is Richard Sennett?

1. Who is Richard Sennett?

In a family of Russian immigrants, Richard Sennett grew up in the Cabrini Green housing project in Chicago. He received a musical education as a youngster, studying the cello and conducting while working with conductors Claus Adam of the Juilliard String Quartet and Pierre Monteux. 

After having his musical career ended due to a hand injury, he entered academia. He received his Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization from Harvard in 1969 after studying there under David Riesman, Erik Erikson, and Oscar Handlin. While he was a fellow at the Joint Center for Urban Studies of Harvard and MIT, his intellectual life as an urbanist came into sharper focus.

2. Richard Sennett early career 

The sociology of culture, the nature of work in contemporary society, and the development of cities are the main topics of Sennett's scholarly writing. His first book, Families Against the City, explores the connection between work and family in Chicago during the 19th century. 

The Uses of Disorder, a piece on identity formation in cities, The Fall of Public Man, a history of public culture and public space, particularly in London, Paris, and New York in the 18th and 19th Centuries, The Conscience of the Eye, a look at how Renaissance urban design influenced modern city planning, and Flesh and Stone, a survey of city design from antiquity to the modern era, are the next four books that explore urban life in greater detail. 

Labor is the subject of a further quartet of books. The Corrosion of Character examines how new forms of work are changing our communal and personal experience; Respect examines the relationship between work and welfare system reforms; The Hidden Injuries of Class examines class consciousness among working-class families in Boston; and The Culture of the New Capitalism offers an overview of these changes. An essay on political theory called "Authority" discusses the means of interpretation we use to transform unchecked power into either legitimate or illegitimate authority. 

3. Richard Sennett Contribution

His essay The corrosion of character (W.W. Norton & Co, 1999) garnered international recognition and the European Sociology Award. Additionally, he has received sociology-related Amalfia and Ebert awards. Sennett is renowned for his research on social interactions in urban settings and how living in cities affects the modern world. The books Flesh and Stone discuss this subject. The uses of disorder and The body and the city in Western civilization (Faber & Faber, 1994). Individuality and city living (Faber & Faber, 1996). 

The Culture of the New Capitalism (Yale University Press, 2006), The Craftsman (Yale University Press, 2009), and Together are three books he has written about the effects of capitalism on modern life and culture. A few others include The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Co-operation (Yale University Press, 2012). In Designing Disorder: Experiments and Disruptions in the City, which he co-authored with Pablo Sendra and was published in Spanish as Disear el desorden by Alianza editorial in 2021, the renowned British sociologist offers suggestions for exposing the city to the complexity of modern society.

II. Richard Sennett Major Works

1. Cities and class

The first three books Richard Sennett wrote after receiving his PhD tell us a lot about the scope and character of his later writing and thought. 

Sennett's dissertation, Mid-city, was quickly revised and published in 1970 as Families Against the City. industrial Chicago homes in the middle class between 1872-1990. The book focused on "the family conditions for one group of middle-class people at the time when the vast cities took shape in America during the decades after the Civil War." The study involved tracking changes over an 18-year period, a detailed cross-sectional analysis of the population using personal census records, and a broad history of Union Park in Chicago up to 1893. is unlike any other Sennett book with its charts and statistical analysis. However, it did align with social historians' growing desire to pay attention to the experiences and lives of "ordinary people." It also brought up some important issues, such as the failure of historians to study how families function, the relative neglect of work on middle-class families' experiences, and the extent to which these Union Park families were involved in the start of "a pattern of family conduct that has culminated in the intense family life of modern suburbs."

He draws attention to situations and dynamics that require careful consideration as an observer of new social trends and the evolving nature of contemporary society. His writing is full of insightful observations and pointers that enable us to understand and appreciate the phenomenon at hand.

Families Against the City was published in the same year as another, very distinct book. The benefits of chaos. Personal identity and city life sought to persuade its readers that the "jungle of the city," with its vastness and solitude, has worthwhile human qualities.The essay format that would characterize much of his work is used in "Uses of Disorder." It asks if the diversity and anarchy of city life can be modified to foster creative disorder by taking an intriguing idea—in this case, that many people remain in adolescence forever—and applying it to it.

The Hidden Injuries of Class was created by Richard Sennett in a few years while collaborating with John Cobb (1972). The study took four years to complete, involved 150 interviews with participants, ten interviewers, four transcriptionists, and substantial funding from the Ford Foundation. The Hidden Injuries of Class, however, does not seem to be a report on "the issues that engage a group of American manual laborers and their families" and how these relate to the traditional "division between culture and the masses of society." It evolved into something more speculative and intimate, pointing to the necessity of viewing these classroom experiences in a different light.

Richard Sennett Major Works sociology

2. New capitalism and the emotional bonds of modern society

Richard Sennett persisted in examining class wounds, "emotional bonds of society," and urban character. Here, I want to concentrate on three essays that examine respect in an unequal world, the personal effects of work in the new capitalism, and authority and the emotional ties of contemporary society. The first and second are separated by three novels, The Conscience of the Eye (on the design and social life of cities) (1991), and Flesh and Stone: The body and the city in Western Civilization, with the first and last being 23 years apart.

The new capitalism trends that Sennett identified are still a useful point of reference. Flexible capitalism, for instance, seems to have stoked a desire for community, which has been expressed, for instance, in the social behaviors of "millennials." Their "insatiable appetite for collaboration and always-on connection to the web, and that is a private online community," has been one factor. However, this is offset by the fact that a sizable portion seems to value interpersonal relationships and face-to-face interactions more than previous generations did. Many people place value on networks and collective action, are influenced by their peers, and are more likely to be activists.

III.  Richard Sennett Death & Awards

Richard Sennett was 69 years old when he died on the first day of the month in 1995 from his cause of death. He was laid to rest in a cemetery.

Sennett received the German city of Stuttgart's Hegel Prize in 2006, and the Gerda Henkel Prize, worth 100,000 Euros, was given to her by the Gerda Henkel Foundation in Düsseldorf in 2008. Since 1987, he has been wed to sociologist Saskia Sassen.

His essay The corrosion of character (W.W. Northon & Co, 1999) garnered international recognition and the European Sociology Award. Additionally, he has received the sociology Amalfia and Ebert awards.

IV. Richard Sennett Books

Richard Sennett Books

1. The Craftsman

Richard Sennett presents a unique viewpoint on craftsmanship and its close ties to work and ethical values in his most ambitious book to date. According to Richard Sennett, good craftsmanship entails learning new skills and putting the work before oneself. Craftsmanship is defined as the fundamental human impulse to complete a task well for its own sake. A craftsman is anyone who works with their hands, including a doctor, an artist, a computer programmer, a parent, and a citizen. 

Sennett challenges preconceived notions about what constitutes high quality work in the modern world as she examines the work of craftsmen both past and present, finds profound connections between material consciousness and ethical values, and examines the work of craftsmen both past and present. 

2. The Culture of the New Capitalism

An intriguing and unsettling examination of how modern economic realities are influencing our social and personal values. The renowned sociologist Richard Sennett examines key distinctions between earlier forms of industrial capitalism and the more universal, ferocious, and continuously changing form of capitalism that is replacing them. 

He demonstrates how these changes have an impact on day-to-day life, including how the work ethic is changing, how new notions of talent and merit have replaced traditional notions of craftsmanship and achievement, how both professionals and manual laborers are haunted by what Sennett refers to as "the specter of uselessness," and how the line between consumption and politics is blurring.

3. The Hidden Injuries of Class

The authors come to the conclusion that no class can win in the contests of hierarchical respect, and that the only way to achieve true equality is to rediscover various notions of human dignity. The Hidden Injuries of Class advances the sociological critique of daily life by examining individual emotions in the context of all human interactions and looking beyond the fight for survival.

4. Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City

A leading thinker reexamines what city life means and plots a course for the future. Richard Sennett, a renowned public intellectual, provided the definitive analysis of cities in his book Building and Dwelling. From ancient Athens to Shanghai in the twenty-first century, he traces the tumultuous relationship between how cities are constructed and how people live in them in this expansive work. He examines the reputations of Jane Jacobs, Lewis Mumford, and others while demonstrating how Paris, Barcelona, and New York City came into being in their modern forms. He also takes us on a tour of iconic modern locations, from the backstreets of Medellin, Colombia, to the Google headquarters in Manhattan. 

V. Richard Sennett Quotes

“Craftsmanship names an enduring, basic human impulse, the desire to do a job well for its own sake.” 

“Issac Stern rule: the better your technique, the more impossible your standards.” 

“Electronic communication is one means by which the very idea of public life has been put to an end.” 

“To the absolutist in every craftsman, each imperfection is a failure; to the practitioner, obsession with perfection seems a perception for failure.” 

“We are more likely to fail as craftsmen due to our inability to organize obsession than because of our lack of ability.” 

“To accept life in its disjointed pieces is an adult experience of freedom, but still these pieces must lodge and embed themselves somewhere, hopefully in a place that allows them to grow and endure.”

--- Richard Sennett 


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