Alex Inkeles

Awards and Honors:
American Philosophical Society
National Academy of Sciences

Alex Inkeles passed away on July 9, 2010. He was a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and also a professor of sociology and, by courtesy, of education (emeritus) at Stanford University.

Bio as of June 2010:

He is an expert on political behavior, modernization, social psychology, and national character. His current research focuses on the social structure of an emerging worldwide society and cross-national comparative studies.

He is also studying patterns of family development, at-risk adolescents, treatment of the aged, Social Security, education, and legal systems in a comparative perspective.

His most recent volumes are One World Emerging? Convergence and Divergence in Industrial Societies (Westview Press, 1998) and National Character: A Psycho-Social Perspective (Transaction Publications, 1997). He is editor (with Masamichi Sasaki) of Comparing Nations and Cultures (Prentice Hall, 1995). Exploring Individual Modernity (Columbia University Press, 1983) appeared in a Chinese edition (Tianjin People's Publishing House, 1995). His classic Becoming Modern: Individual Change in Six Developing Countries (Harvard University Press, 1974) has also been translated into Chinese.

The author of numerous books and more than 150 articles on sociology and social psychology, he received the Kappa Tau Alpha Award for the best book on mass communication and journalism for his first book, Public Opinion in Soviet Russia (1950), and the Grant Squires Prize from Columbia University (1955). "Linking the Whole Human Race: The World as a Communications System" was awarded the first annual prize for work contributed to the journal Business in the Contemporary World in 1990.

He is often invited to lecture and consult concerning problems of national development in both developing and advanced countries. He has done so in mainland China (1983 and 1986); in Bulgaria (1989), under the auspices of the Bulgarian Academy of Science for a program on personality development under conditions of sociotechnical change; and in Poland (1990) as a guest of the Polish Academy of Science. In 1989, he organized a conference at the Hoover Institution comparing Japanese and American national character and another international conference on measuring democracy, also at Hoover.

Inkeles is also continuing his study of the interrelations of personality and social structure, specifically the influence of individual development on the level of national development and how it shapes the form and content of personality and national character. In addition, he is engaged with other Hoover Institution scholars in a major study of the social factors related to democratic political systems worldwide.

He has been elected to three of the most distinguished honorary societies in America: the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1962), the American Philosophical Society (1972), and the National Academy of Sciences (1981).

Before coming to Stanford University, he was a professor of sociology at Harvard University.

In 1998 Inkeles served as a fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science at the Institute of Statistical Mathematics in Tokyo. In 1997, he served as a senior visiting scholar at the Annenberg School of Communication, University of Pennsylvania. He held a National Academy of Sciences fellowship in 1992 and a Guggenheim fellowship for study in Israel and the United Kingdom in 1977–1978. In 1977, he was a Fulbright scholar in Greece and in 1985 in Chile. Inkeles has held fellowships at the Russell Sage Foundation in New York (1966 and 1985–86); the Eisenhower Foundation of Taiwan (1984–85); the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey (1974–75); and the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, California (1955–56).

Born in Brooklyn, New York, he received an A.B. degree in 1941 and an A.M. in 1946 from Cornell University. He received a Ph.D. in 1949 from Columbia University.

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Recent Commentary

Traditional Asia Meets the Modern West

by Alex Inkelesvia Hoover Digest
Friday, January 30, 1998

How economic growth is forcing the placid stream of traditional Asian culture to merge with the turbulent stream of modernity. By Hoover fellow Alex Inkeles.

Continuity and Change in Popular Values on the Pacific Rim

by Alex Inkelesvia Analysis
Friday, August 29, 1997

Although the economic transformation of many nations in Asia is widely recognized, equally profound processes of social and cultural change in these same societies have gone largely unnoticed. Yet without knowledge of those changes we cannot fully appreciate the extent of the Asian economic miracle or adequately assess its significance for the future incorporation of the rapidly developing Pacific Rim nations into the emergent world order of the twenty-first century. This essay presents the first results of a continuing program to assess the extent and form of changing popular values and attitudes in a number of the most important of the growth engines in the area such as Taiwan, mainland China, Singapore, Korea, and their forerunner, Japan. The evidence is drawn from public opinion polls and social surveys covering a span of decades. To be sure, the region provides evidence of the persistence of tradition, and even of its actual strengthening, under conditions of modernization. Examples are the sentiment of filial piety and the value of hard work and frugality. Nevertheless, the main fact is that in a large number of domains popular attitudes and values have been changing profoundly and at a surprisingly accelerated rate. Within little more than one generation the approach to selecting a marriage partner, the ways of spending leisure time, and basic values about what one's goals in life should be have all undergone profound and rapid shifts. Communal responsibility has come to be replaced by individual expression; the present is increasingly stressed over the past and the future; consumption more and more displaces saving and accumulation. These are all the hallmarks of modernity. The diffusion of these tendencies in Asian populations increases the facility with which they can be integrated in a new blending of the cultures of East and West. But the same processes present great challenges to the traditional bases of social integration and political cohesiveness of these societies.

Nine Traits That Make Americans American

by Alex Inkelesvia Hoover Digest
Wednesday, July 30, 1997

De Tocqueville and other observers marveled at the traits that made Americans different from other peoples. Hoover fellow Alex Inkeles brings the techniques of modern sociology to bear on nine traits that still set us apart.