Monday, October 07, 2013

Juan Linz: An Appreciation

My dissertation director, Juan Linz, died recently. He was 86, and had been retired for some years.

Linz was a German-born Spaniard who spent his whole career in the U.S., mostly at Yale. He was a political sociologist, propagator of the idea of 'authoritarian' regimes, an expert on the Basque terrorists, and a major theorist of democratic regimes.  His recent work on gridlock and worse in presidential democracies is being much cited just now.

He turned out to be an odd choice as dissertation director.  He was a European and a Catholic (though he was careful never to let students see his faith).  My dissertation was about American Presbyterians.  I often thought that he secretly believed that America and Protestantism were novelties that it was too soon to get too involved with. 

His students will long tell stories of the two large Gladstone bags of books that he always carried with him, and his chain smoking of strong Spanish "Ducados" cigarettes.

I worked with him because he was a Weberian, and had thought a great deal about religion and politics.  I learned a great deal from him on those subjects.