The eminent political scientist Philip Converse passed away about one week ago. Prof. Converse’s colleague at the University of Michigan, Donald Kinder, kindly took a moment to write a brief obituary of him.
I am very sorry to report that Phil Converse died December 30th in Ann Arbor. Converse spent most of his professional life at the University of Michigan. He received his Ph.D. from the University in 1958 and stayed on, rising rapidly through the professorial ranks, holding appointments in both the sociology and political science departments. He headed the Center for Political Studies and later served as Director of the Institute for Social Research (ISR). He retired from the University in 1989 as the Robert Cooley Angell Distinguished University Professor of Sociology and Political Science and headed west, becoming the Director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Studies at Stanford.
Over the course of his career, Converse was responsible for an extraordinary number of foundational works in the behavioral study of politics. He wrote on social class, belief systems, voters and elections, the dynamics of partisanship, political representation, the development and stabilization of party systems, and the human meaning of social change. Brilliant analyst and splendid writer, Converse delivered pleasure on nearly every page.
Phil is gone, and those fortunate to call him friend and colleague and knew him as a humane and generous spirit, will miss him keenly.
A memorial service is being planned for late winter or early spring.
Here is Converse’s Wikipedia page. Here is a brief article about him. As Kinder alluded to, Converse was the co-author — with Angus Campbell, Warren Miller, and Donald Stokes — of perhaps the most important book on American voting behavior, “The American Voter,” which is still in print after 55 years. Here is the book’s Wikipedia page. He was the author of perhaps the most influential article in the field of public opinion, “The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics.” Here is a pdf of the article and here is a summary of its argument.
We celebrate his life.