James Q. Wilson dead at 80

Some sad breaking news for the political science community: James Q. Wilson died this morning. A preliminary obituary is here.

Wilson had returned to Massachusetts recently to teach at Boston College after long stints at Harvard and UCLA, as well as at Pepperdine. The obituary focuses almost entirely on Wilson’s sometimes-controversial contributions to the sociology of crime and “the moral sense,” but his influence ranged far more widely. He was a founding and frequent contributor to The Public Interest.  And his books Political Organizations (1973) and Bureaucracy (1989), among others, are classics. I will expand on Wilson’s contributions to the study of American public administration in a future post. As further evidence of his wise influence I will only point out for now his observation that his descendants “feel a legal obligation to live within 30 minutes of Fenway Park.”

5 Responses to James Q. Wilson dead at 80

  1. Andy Rudalevige March 2, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    A quick addendum – Bill Kristol has posted a tribute to Wilson at http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/james-q-wilson-1931-2012_633076.html

    • Matt Dickinson March 2, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

      Single smartest political scientist I ever knew. He will be missed.

      • Dan Ponder March 2, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

        I once had a conversation with Erwin Hargrove, and for some reason the conversation rolled around to “smart” political scientists. I asked him who the smartest ones he knew were, and he immediately answered that there were three. Two, Aaron Wildavsky and Ted Lowi, had been in his graduate student cohort at Yale, and the third, the “smartest of them all,” was James Q. Wilson.

  2. Matt Dickinson March 3, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    For those who might be interested, I’ve posted some additional thoughts about J.Q. Wilson at: