People

Richard Sennett trained at the University of Chicago and at Harvard University, receiving his Ph.D. in 1969. He then moved to New York where, in the 1970s he founded, with Susan Sontag and Joseph Brodsky, The New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University. In the 1980s he served as an advisor to UNESCO and as president of the American Council on Work; he also taught occasionally at Harvard. In the mid 1990s Mr. Sennett began to divide his time between New York University and the London School of Economics. In addition to these academic homes, he maintains informal connections to MIT and to Trinity College, Cambridge University.

News

Publications

  • Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City

    Richard Sennett
    View Summary

    In this sweeping study, one of the world's leading thinkers about the urban environment traces the often anguished relation between how cities are built and how people live in them, from ancient Athens to twenty-first-century Shanghai. Richard Sennett shows how Paris, Barcelona and New York City assumed their modern forms; rethinks the reputations of Jane Jacobs, Lewis Mumford and others; and takes us on a tour of emblematic contemporary locations, from the backstreets of Medellín, Colombia, to the Google headquarters in Manhattan. Through it all, he shows how the 'closed city' - segregated, regimented, and controlled - has spread from the global North to the exploding urban agglomerations of the global South. As an alternative, he argues for the 'open city,' where citizens actively hash out their differences and planners experiment with urban forms that make it easier for residents to cope. Rich with arguments that speak directly to our moment - a time when more humans live in urban spaces than ever before - Building and Dwelling draws on Sennett's deep learning and intimate engagement with city life to form a bold and original vision for the future of cities.

    Purchase

  • Together: The Rituals, Pleasures, and Politics of Cooperation

    Richard Sennett
    View Summary

    Living with people who differ—racially, ethnically, religiously, or economically—is the most urgent challenge facing civil society today. We tend socially to avoid engaging with people unlike ourselves, and modern politics encourages the politics of the tribe rather than of the city. In this thought-provoking book, Richard Sennett discusses why this has happened and what might be done about it.

    Sennett contends that cooperation is a craft, and the foundations for skillful cooperation lie in learning to listen well and discuss rather than debate. In Together he explores how people can cooperate online, on street corners, in schools, at work, and in local politics. He traces the evolution of cooperative rituals from medieval times to today, and in situations as diverse as slave communities, socialist groups in Paris, and workers on Wall Street. Divided into three parts, the book addresses the nature of cooperation, why it has become weak, and how it could be strengthened. The author warns that we must learn the craft of cooperation if we are to make our complex society prosper, yet he reassures us that we can do this, for the capacity for cooperation is embedded in human nature.

    Purchase

  • The Craftsman

    Richard Sennett
    View Summary

    The Craftsman names a basic human impulse: the desire to do a job well for its own sake. Although the word may suggest a way of life that waned with the advent of industrial society, Sennett argues that the craftsman’s realm is far broader than skilled manual labor; the computer programmer, the doctor, the parent, and the citizen need to learn the values of good craftsmanship today.

    The Craftsman leads Richard Sennett across time and space, from ancient Roman brickmakers to Renaissance goldsmiths to the printing presses of Enlightenment Paris and the factories of industrial London. History has drawn fault lines dividing practice and theory, technique and expression, craftsman and artist, maker and user; modern society suffers from the historical inheritance. But the past life of craft and craftsmen also suggests ways of using tools, organizing work, and thinking about materials that remain alternative, viable proposals about how to conduct life with skill.

    Purchase

  • Practicing Culture

    Richard Sennett and Craig Calhoun
    View Summary

    The essays in Practicing Culture seek to revitalize the field of cultural sociology. They show how to put theoretical sources to work in empirical research. Culture is a set of practices rather than static representations; culture is made and remade in countless small ways and occasional bursts of innovation. Culture is something people do. 

    Purchase

  • The Culture of the New Capitalism

    Richard Sennett
    View Summary

    In The Culture of the New Capitalism, Richard Sennett surveys the major differences between earlier forms of industrial capitalism and the more global, more febrile, ever more mutable version of capitalism that is taking its place. He shows how these changes affect everyday life – how the work ethic is changing; how new beliefs about merit and talent displace old values of craftsmanship and achievement; how what Sennett calls “the specter of uselessness” haunts professionals as well as manual workers; how the boundary between consumption and politics is dissolving. 

    In recent years, reformers of both private and public institutions have preached that flexible, global corporations provide a model of freedom for individuals, unlike the experience of fixed bureaucracies Max Weber once called an “iron cage.” Sennett argues that, in banishing old ills, the new-economy model has created new social and emotional traumas. Only a certain kind of human being can prosper in unstable, fragmentary institutions: the culture of the new capitalism demands an ideal self oriented to the short term, focused on potential ability rather than accomplishment, willing to discount or abandon past experience. 

    Purchase

  • Respect in a World of Inequality

    Richard Sennett
    View Summary

    In the uncertain world of “flexible” social relationships, all are troubled by issues of respect: whether it be an employee stuck with insensitive management, a social worker trying to aid a resentful client, or a virtuoso artist and an accompanist aiming for a perfect duet. 

    Opening with a recollection of growing up in Chicago’s infamous Cabrini Green housing project, Sennett explores the factors that make mutual respect so difficult to achieve. Even in a perfect world, inequalities of ability remain. Adults who are dependent face challenges in earning both self-respect and respect from others. Compassion degrades into condescension, due to both impersonal bureaucracy and intrusive volunteerism. 

    In Respect in a World of Inequality, Sennett investigates from the world of music how self-worth can be nurtured in an unequal society, how self-esteem must be balanced with feeling for others, and how mutual respect can forge bonds across the divide of inequality. 

    Purchase

  • The Hidden Injuries of Class

    Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb
    View Summary

    This book deals with class not as a matter of dollars or statistics but as a matter of emotions. Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb isolate the “hidden signals of class” through which today’s blue-collar worker measures his own value against those lives and occupations to which our society attaches a special premium. The authors uncover and define the internal, emotionally hurtful forms of class difference in America now becoming visible with the advent of the “affluent” society. 

    Perceiving our society as one that judges a human being against an arbitrary scale of “achievement,” that recognizes not a diversity of talents but a pyramid of them, and accords the world’s best welder less respect than the most mediocre doctor, the authors concentrate on the injurious game of “achievement” and self-justification that result. 

    Examining intimate feelings in terms of a totality of human relations within and among classes and looking beyond, though never ignoring, the struggle for economic survival, The Hidden Injuries of Class takes a step forward in the sociological “critique of everyday life.” The authors are critical both of the claim that workers are melting into a homogenous society and of the attempt to “save” the worker for a revolutionary role along conventional socialist lines. They conclude that the games of hierarchical respect we currently play will end in a fratricide in which no class can emerge the victor; and that true egalitarianism can be achieved only by rediscovering diverse concepts of human dignity to substitute for the rigidly uniform scale against which Americans are now forced to judge one another- and validate themselves. 

    Purchase

  • Uses of Disorder

    Richard Sennett
    View Summary

    In Uses of Disorder, Richard Sennett shows how an excessively ordered community freezes adults into rigid attitudes that stifle personal growth. He argues that the accepted ideal of order generates patterns of behavior that are stultifying, narrow, and violence-prone. And he proposes a functioning city that can incorporate anarchy, diversity, and creative disorder to bring into being adults who can openly respond to and deal with the challenges of life. 

    Purchase