In Memoriam: Allan Silver, Professor Emeritus of Sociology

Professor Emeritus of Sociology Allan Silver died on November 14, 2015, in New York City. He was 85.

Silver was born in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, in 1930, and showed an intense devotion to intellectualism and culture even in high school. He earned a B.A., an M.A. and a Ph.D. in political sociology from Michigan in 1954, 1961 and 1963 respectively, taking a break from his undergraduate studies to serve with the Army in the Korean War in 1951.

While living in England from 1957 to 1960, Silver worked for a market research firm and, while there, developed a collaborative relationship with Robert McKenzie, a political sociology professor at The London School of Economics. They conducted a study of British working-class conservatives, which became the basis for Silver’s dissertation- turned-book, Angels in Marble: Working Class Conservatives in Urban England, co-authored with McKenzie and published in 1968.

Silver joined the Columbia faculty in 1964, quickly becoming known for his commitment to and respect for his students. Having joined Columbia at a time of political and social turmoil, Silver nonetheless remained dedicated both to the students and to the institution, working to mediate relations between the administration and students during the demonstrations of Spring 1968. His teaching in the Core Curriculum included both Contemporary Civilization and Literature Humanities. More recently, in the context of the Global Core requirement, Silver worked with colleague Rachel Chung to develop a course on ideals and practices of friendship in East Asia and the West; they were scheduled to teach it again this spring.

Silver’s work has been published in the American Journal of Sociology and in essay collections on a range of topics from political sociology of the Hebrew bible and studies of citizenship in the United States to a foundational text on the nature of friendship.

Silver also taught at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris, Meiji University in Tokyo, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Wisconsin. Even after his formal retirement in 2009, Silver continued to teach in the Core Curriculum and serve as a graduate mentor.

More recently, Silver pursued two other lines of research. One, reflecting the influence of his mentor Morris Janowitz, concerned the historically changing relationships among military institutions, war and democratic citizenship. Silver analyzed the implications of the decline of mass conscript armies in the post-WWII era for the practice of democratic citizenship. He led a lengthy campaign for the return of ROTC to Columbia and other elite universities from which it had been banned after 1968 and was gratified when — in the aftermath of the opening of the military to gay recruits — Columbia and other Ivy League campuses voted to allow the return of ROTC in recent years. The second line of research that preoccupied Silver late in life was the analysis of traditional Jewish texts in light of the concerns of modern political theory.

Silver is survived by his wife, Victoria Koroteyeva LAW’06, a professor at SIPA, and nieces, Marilyn Kravitz and Elaine Arena.

— Aiyana K. White ’18 and Lisa Palladino