Richard G. Braungart
Professor Emeritus, Sociology Department
Highest degree earned
Born in Baltimore, Maryland during the Great Depression, having a father who immigrated to the United States, growing up during World War II, and witnessing the age of the Atomic Bomb, the Korean conflict, and the McCarthy era of political witch-hunts taught me the world is a tumultuous place and that national and international events have a profound impact on people's everyday lives.
My horizons expanded at age 19 when drafted into the U.S. Army, where I served as a medic in West Germany, traveled extensively throughout Europe, saw the aftermath of World War II, and experienced the Cold War firsthand. Thanks to the GI Bill, I was able to attend the University of Maryland, where I became interested in sociology and history. Encouraged by several senior sociology professors (Bruce L. Melvin, Harold Hoffsommer, Robert K. Hirzel), I was given a teaching assistantship in the department to continue my education as a graduate student. The exposure to an inspiring professor of Middle Eastern history, Helen A. Rivlin, opened my eyes to the richness of non-Western cultures. I wrote my masters thesis on land reform in Iran (1963), and in the summer of 1964 was invited by Hisham Sharabi at Georgetown University to lecture Peace Corps volunteers bound for Iran. I was now heading in a comparative international direction.
After marrying and with the help of research and teaching assistantships, I forged ahead for my doctoral degree at Penn State University. Working under the direction of political sociologist David Westby and social psychologists Muzafer and Carolyn Sherif, I was given the creative freedom and funding to explore my research interests, with my doctoral dissertation based on a survey of over 1,200 left, right and moderate university students during the heyday of the 1960s campus turmoil. The warp and woof of my academic career had taken shape, and I focused on two principal fields of inquiry for the rest of my life: political sociology and generational politics. After accepting faculty positions, first at University of Maryland and then at Syracuse University, I pursued a comparative approach in both theory and research.
Interest in political sociology was inspired by my growing-up experiences along with the election of John F. Kennedy as U.S. President and the compelling events of the anti-war protests and civil rights movement. My political sociology research has been influenced by the writings of C. Wright Mills, Seymour Martin Lipset and Reinhard Bendix. Political sociology is a disparate field, and I sought to develop a more inclusive paradigm that focused on the social roots of politics, the politics of politics, and their effects nationally and internationally. Essentially, this model attempts to explain political changes from below (Karl Marx), organization and power from above (Max Weber), and democratic planning from within (Karl Mannheim). For an overview of my approach to comparative political sociology, see my list of select publications below.
My work in generational politics began with my doctoral dissertation study of the 1960s student movement. Drawing inspiration from scholars such as Karl Mannheim (sociology), Erik Erikson (psychology), José Ortega y Gasset (philosophy) and Anthony Esler (history), my interest in student movements expanded to examining the history of youth unrest, global patterns of youthful activism, life-course dimensions of generational relations, and how the issue of citizenship galvanized many youth movements. Two analytic frameworks aid an understanding of generational politics: historical generations theory; and the interactions among life-cycle, cohort and period effects. For an examination of my selected writings in generational politics, see below.
To facilitate the development of political sociology and generational politics, a comparative approach is required that identifies both differences and similarities in national, cross-national and global human activity. The value of a comparative perspective was reinforced by my participation in international professional organizations (ISA, IPSA, ISPP), my consulting work with the United Nations, and my extensive travel experiences acquired through lecture tours, invited talks, and scholarly exchanges in Western and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. An interdisciplinary orientation was promoted by my research and publishing activities with my wife Margaret, who is a psychologist. Little can be understood in political sociology or generational politics without considering the intertwining of sociological, psychological and historical factors. Our collaboration has resulted in the publication of over 200 books, articles and chapters and their translation into many languages. For a full list of my publications, background and activities, see my curriculum vitae. Not incidentally, we also had three daughters, now grown raising their own families, two of whom are developmental psychology professors, while the other daughter runs a business on historic, picturesque Nantucket Island.
In hindsight, I have been most fortunate to travel this journey of trying to understand political sociology and generational politics from a comparative perspective. Because I was older as a college student, I was perhaps more serious. I took full advantage of seeking out enlightened and demanding professors during my training, reading the classics in the field as well as remaining current through journal reading and scholarly exchanges, and honing my skills through numerous research projects. Founding and editing Research in Political Sociology, along with other scholarly experiences, were invaluable in improving my critical and analytic abilities. A comparative approach can help us gain a genuine appreciation of national and international differences as well as the capacity to identify and build upon our human commonalities.
Areas of Expertise
R. G. Braungart (ed.), Society and Politics: Readings in Political Sociology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1976.
R. G. Braungart, "Political Sociology: History and Scope," in Samuel Long (ed.), Handbook of Political Behavior, Volume 3. New York: Plenum Publishing Corp., 1981, pp. 1-80.
R. G. Braungart, "Political Sociology: History, Scope, and Method," in Frederick D. Weil (ed.), Syllabi and Instructional Material for Courses in Political Sociology, Second Edition. Washington, DC: American Sociological Association, 1990, pp. 1-14. A practical research guide.
R.G. Braungart and M.M. Braungart, "At Century's End: Globalization, Paradoxes, and a New Political Agenda," Journal of Political and Military Sociology, Volume 25, Number 2 (Winter 1997), pp. 343-351.
R. G. Braungart and M. M. Braungart, "International Political Sociology," in Stella Quah and Arnaud Sales (eds.), International Handbook of Sociology. London: SAGE Publications, 2000, pp. 197-217.
R. G. Braungart, "Historical Generations and Youth Movements: A Theoretical Perspective," in Richard E. Radcliff (ed.), Research in Social Movements, Conflict and Change, Volume 6. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1984, pp. 95-141. Part 1 of Historical Generational Theory.
R. G. Braungart, "Historical Generations and Generation Units: A Global Pattern of Youth Movements," Journal of Political and Military Sociology, Volume 12, Number 1 (Spring-Summer 1984), pp. 113-135. Part 2 of Historical Generational Theory. Also published in R.G. Braungart and M.M. Braungart (eds.), Life Course and Generational Politics. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1993, pp. 113-135.
R. G. Braungart and M. M. Braungart, "Life-Course and Generational Politics," in Ralph H. Turner and James F. Short, Jr. (eds.), Annual Review of Sociology, Volume 12. Palo Alto, CA: Annual Reviews, Inc., 1986, pp. 205-231.
R. G. Braungart and M. M. Braungart, "Political Generations," in R.G. Braungart and M.M. Braungart (eds.), Research in Political Sociology, Volume 4. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1989, pp. 281-319.
R. G. Braungart and M. M. Braungart, "Historical Generations and Citizenship: 200 Years of Youth Movements," in Philo C. Wasburn (ed.), Research in Political Sociology, Volume 6. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1993, pp. 139-174.
R. G. Braungart and M. M. Braungart, "Generational Conflict," in Lonnie R. Sherrod, Constance A. Flanagan, and Ron Kassimir (eds.), Youth Activism: An International Encyclopedia, Volume 1. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006, pp. 272-282.