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Todd Gitlin

Todd Gitlin
Todd Gitlin in 2007
Born (1943-01-06) January 6, 1943 [1]
New York City
Nationality USA
Alma mater Bronx High School of Science
Harvard College (A.B., Mathematics)
University of Michigan (M.A., Political Science)
University of California, Berkeley (Ph.D., Sociology)
Occupation sociologist, author, professor
Known for Students for a Democratic Society
Spouse(s) Laurel Ann Cook (m. 3-Nov-1995)
Parent(s) Max M. Gitlin
Dorothy Renik
Awards Bosch Berlin Prize in Public Policy
Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin
Website .nettoddgitlin

Todd Gitlin (born 1943) is an American sociologist, political writer, novelist, and cultural commentator. He has written widely on the mass media, politics, intellectual life and the arts, for both popular and scholarly publications.


  • New Left activist 1
  • Academic career 2
  • Public intellectual 3
  • Quote 4
  • Books 5
  • Essays and Journalism 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

New Left activist

Gitlin became a political activist in 1960, when he joined a Harvard group called Tocsin, against nuclear weapons. In 1963 and 1964, Gitlin was president of demonstration against the Vietnam War, held in Washington, D. C., on April 17, 1965, with 25,000 participants, as well as the first civil disobedience directed against American corporate support for the apartheid regime in South Africa - a sit-in at the Manhattan headquarters of Chase Manhattan Bank on March 19, 1965.[2] In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[3] In the mid-1980s, he was a leader of Berkeley's Faculty for Full Divestment and president of Harvard-Radcliffe Alumni/-ae Against Apartheid. In 2013, he became involved in the alumni wing of the Divest Harvard [4] movement, seeking the university's exit from fossil fuel corporations.

Academic career

Gitlin graduated as valedictorian of the Bronx High School of Science, one of New York City's elite public high schools. Enrolling at Harvard College, he graduated with an A.B. degree in mathematics. After his leadership in SDS, he earned graduate degrees from the University of Michigan (political science) and the University of California, Berkeley (sociology).

He served as professor of sociology and director of the mass communications program at UC Berkeley, then a professor of culture, journalism and sociology at New York University. He is now a professor of journalism and sociology and chair of the Ph.D. program in Communications at Columbia University. During 1994-95, he held the chair in American Civilization at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He has been a resident at the Bellagio Study Center in Italy and the Djerassi Foundation in Woodside, California, a fellow at the Media Studies Center, and a visiting professor at Yale University, the University of Oslo, and the University of Toronto. From April - May 2011, Gitlin was the recipient of the Bosch Berlin Prize in Public Policy and Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.

Public intellectual

He has written 15 books and hundreds of articles in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Ha'aretz, Columbia Journalism Review, Tablet Magazine, The New Republic, Mother Jones, and many more. He has been a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner and the New York Observer, and a frequent contributor to TPMcafe and The New Republic online, as well as the "Brainstorms" section of the Chronicle of Higher Education. He is on the editorial board of Dissent. He has been co-chair of the San Francisco branch of PEN American Center, a member of the board of directors of Greenpeace, and an early editor of openDemocracy. He has given hundreds of lectures at public occasions and universities in many countries.

In his early writings on media, especially The Whole World Is Watching, he called attention to the ideological framing of the New Left and other social movements, the vexed relations of leadership and celebrity, and the impact of coverage on the movements themselves. He was the first sociologist to apply Erving Goffman's concept of "frame" to news analysis, and to show Antonio Gramsci's "hegemony" at work in a detailed analysis of intellectual production. In Inside Prime Time, he analyzed the workings of the television entertainment industry of the early 1980s, discerning the implicit procedures that guide network executives and other television "players" to make their decisions. In The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, a memoir and analysis combined, he developed a sense of the tensions between expressive and strategic politics. In The Twilight of Common Dreams he asked why the groups that constitute the American left so often turn to infighting rather than solidarity. In Media Unlimited, he turned to the unceasing flow of the media torrent, the problems of attention and distraction, and the emotional payoffs of media experience (which he called "disposable emotions") in our time. In Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street, he distinguished between "inner" and "outer" movements, analyzing their respective strengths and weaknesses.

In The Whole World Is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left, The Sixties, The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America Is Wracked with Culture Wars, Letters to a Young Activist, and The Intellectuals and the Flag, Gitlin became a prominent critic of the tactics and rhetoric of the Left as well as the Right. While continuing to support active, strategically focused nonviolent movements, he emphasizes what he sees as the need in American politics to form coalitions between disparate movements, which must compromise ideological purity to gain and sustain power by working together within the two major political parties. During the George W. Bush administration, he argued that the Republican party managed to accomplish this with a coalition of what he called two "major components - the low-tax, love-business, hate-government enthusiasts and the God-save-us moral crusaders" but that the Democratic Party has often been unable to accomplish a pragmatic coalition between its "roughly eight" constituencies, which he identifies as "labor, African Americans, Hispanics, feminists, gays, environmentalists, members of the helping professions (teachers, social workers, nurses), and the militantly liberal, especially antiwar denizens of avant-garde cultural zones such as university towns, the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and so on." (from The Bulldozer and the Big Tent, pp. 18–19).

In The Chosen Peoples: America, Israel, and the Ordeals of Divine Election, he and Liel Leibovitz traced parallel themes in the history of the Jews and the Americans through history down to the present.


~ from Varieties of Patriotic Experience
~ from "Paraphrasing the '60s" Los Angeles Times, January 27, 2007


  • Uptown: Poor Whites in Chicago (1970) ISBN 0-06-090235-3 (with Nanci Hollander)
  • Campfires of the Resistance: Poetry from the Movement, editor (1971)
  • Busy Being Born (1974) ISBN 0-87932-073-7
  • The Whole World is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the Left (1980) ISBN 0-520-23932-6
  • Inside Prime Time (1983) ISBN 0-520-21785-3
  • The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage (1987) ISBN 0-553-37212-2
  • Watching Television, editor (1987) ISBN 0-394-54496-X
  • The Murder of Albert Einstein (1992) ISBN 0-553-37366-8
  • The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America is Wracked by Culture Wars (1995) ISBN 0-8050-4091-9.
  • Sacrifice (1999) ISBN 0-8050-6032-4
  • Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives (2002) ISBN 0-8050-7283-7
  • Letters To a Young Activist (2003) ISBN 0-465-02738-5
  • The Intellectuals and the Flag (2006) ISBN 0-231-12492-9
  • The Bulldozer and the Big Tent (2007) ISBN 0-471-74853-6
  • The Chosen Peoples: America, Israel, and the Ordeals of Divine Election (2010) ISBN 1-4391-3235-6 (with Liel Leibovitz)
  • Undying (2011) ISBN 978-1-58243-646-3
  • Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street (2012) ISBN 0-553-37212-2

Essays and Journalism

  • "A Charter for the 99 Percent,"
  • "The Washington Post Doesn't Need a New-Media Mogul—It Needs an Old-Fashioned One,"
  • "How WikiLeaks Beat the Mainstream Media,"


  1. ^ "Bio: Todd Gitlin", NNDB
  2. ^ Sale, Kirkpatrick, SDS (New York: Random House, 1973), pp. 153–54.
  3. ^ “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
  4. ^

External links

  • Gitlin's page at Columbia University
  • World AffairsDo Less Harm: The Lesser Evil of Non-Intervention, Todd Gitlin's essay in
  • DissentTodd Gitlin's essays in
  • Gitlin in discussion with Mark Bauerlein
  • Video of debate/discussion with Todd Gitlin on
  • Interview on WikiLeaks with Brooke Gladstone On the Media
  • Interview on The Chosen Peoples with Robert Pollie, The 7th Avene Project
  • Interview on The Chosen Peoples with Michael Krasny, KQED Forum
  • Interview about Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street, on Book TV (C-SPAN), June 4, 2012, aired July 15, 2012
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