October 24, 2006 Neil Smelser Discusses "Why Terrorist Ideologies Are So Powerful," Nov. 29

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Robert Saladini (202) 707-2692

Sociologist Neil J. Smelser will present a lecture titled “Why Are Terrorist Ideologies So Powerful” at the Library of Congress at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 29, in Room 119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C.

Smelser occupies the chair of the Countries and Cultures of the North in the Library’s John W. Kluge Center, which is sponsoring the lecture. The event is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

In his talk, Smelser will go beyond contemporary radical Islamic-inspired ideologies to cover extremist ideologies in general, some of which combine to generate terrorist activities. He will discuss several subtopics on how ideologies can be a unique mix of meaningful cultural change and a way of assigning responsibility and blame. He will also talk about themes of ambivalence in ideologies, the rationalization of ideologies and the confrontation of terrorist and counter-terrorist ideologies.

Smelser is professor emeritus of sociology at University of California, Berkeley. He also served as director of the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, Calif., from 1994 to 2001, and is considered by many to be one of the most highly respected sociologists of his time. A significant part of his research deals with collective behavior and social movements.

Smelser began his academic career in 1958 in Berkeley’s sociology department, and was named professor emeritus in 1994. Smelser received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1952, studied as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford from 1952 to 1954 and earned a

Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard in 1958. At the age of 24, he co-authored “Economy and Society” with Talcott Parsons, his Harvard mentor.

Smelser is the author of 14 books, including “The Social Edges of Psychoanalysis” (University of California Press, 1999) and “Sociology” (Blackwell Publishers, 1994). In 2002 he co-edited the book “Terrorism: Perspectives from the Behavioral and Social Sciences.” He is the former president of the American Sociological Association, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world’s best thinkers to stimulate, energize and distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources and to interact with policy-makers in Washington. For more information on fellowships, grants and programs, visit www.loc.gov/kluge.


PR 06-204
ISSN 0731-3527