Marion J. Levy, Jr.

Marion J. Levy, Jr. Photo

Marion J. Levy, Jr. was the Musgrave Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. He was a professor at Princeton University from 1947 until his retirement in 1989. He passed away of complications from Parkinson's Disease in 2002. 

Professor Levy was a scholar of modernization, a larger-than-life figure on Princeton's campus known for his scholarly contributions, his passionate involvement in academic issues and his "Laws of the Disillusionment of the True Liberal," a book that was self published. This little book was often quoted far beyond Princeton. 

Levy earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University and his master’s degree in economics from the University of Texas. He switched to sociology after his adviser told him his structural analysis was “interesting, but not economics,” his daughter recalled. “He preferred a field where nobody could tell him what it wasn’t.”

He received his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in sociology from Harvard, working with renowned sociologist Talcott Parsons. Levy became a leading advocate of structural-functionalism and a critic of Parsons’ methodology, including misplaced dichotomies.

Levy was a U.S. Navy officer during World War II, reaching the rank of lieutenant, senior grade, and serving as Japanese language officer. While serving in China, he did field work on the Chinese family, which informed his work as a comparative sociologist throughout his career. In his doctoral dissertation on the Chinese family and in later writings on China and Japan, Levy was fascinated with how historic patterns change. He produced a far-reaching analysis of China’s traditional family structure and pioneering investigations of why Japan, instead of China, led the way to modernization in Asia. Later he would extend his interest in family patterns to generalize about the role of mothers in diverse societies.

In total, Levy wrote or contributed to 15 books and published more than 100 articles and reviews. From 1976 through 1983, Levy served as director of the National Resource Center for East Asian Studies in the U.S. Department of Education. Among his honors, he received grants from the Ford Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

Marks, M. (May 26, 2002) Princeton University News. Princeton University. "Marion J. Levy Jr., Scholar of Modernization, Dies at 83."