The great sociologist Barrington Moore Jr.’s death last October passed largely unnoticed, to the shame of the era. Charles Tilly remembers Moore in the Canadian Journal of Sociology Online, via Political Theory Daily Review.
Moore graduated from Williams, went on to a Yale Ph.D. and service in the wartime Office of Strategic Services, then taught at Chicago for two years before taking up a post as research associate at Harvard’s Russian Research Center. At Harvard, Moore was reluctant to take on the routine administration and petty politics of university departments; only late in his career did he move from lecturer to professor. Meanwhile he spent most of most summers on his yacht, sailing out of Bar Harbor, and significant parts of his winters skiing near his lodge in Alta, Utah.
Despite this life of relative ease, Moore maintained a fierce commitment to democracy, a contempt for intolerance and injustice, a hatred for tyrannies of all persuasions, and a conviction that changing material conditions shape human political action. His closest friends (and most frequent guests on his yacht) were typically intellectual radicals such as Herbert Marcuse and Robert Paul Wolff. When Moore worked, he went at it with ferocious energy, never publishing until he had gotten the argument more or less right. For his students, he became a model of intellectual commitment and rigor.