Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: Accession 18559

Daniel Bell personal archive

Overview

The Daniel Bell personal archive documents the academic and professional career of Daniel Bell as a teacher, writer, consultant, and researcher, with the heaviest concentration of material dating from 1940 to 1990. The collection is a valuable resource for research in the intellectual history of the social sciences and the study of the economic and social trends that shaped American society in the twentieth century. Bell was a prolific researcher, correspondent, and author, and thus much of the collection consists of correspondence, published and unpublished manuscripts, lectures, and course materials. The collection documents Bell's principal areas of research including labor and its central relationship to capital; socialism's impact on American political life; ideologies in the organization of society; and the development of the post-industrial society. Also documented in this collection are Bell's interests in forecasting methodology, the impact of technology in society, higher education, and capitalism's cultural contradictions.

Dates

  • 1903-2008

Creator

Language of Materials

English

Conditions Governing Access

Most of the Daniel Bell personal archive is open for research with the following exceptions: Access to Harvard University administrative records in this collection is restricted for 50 years. Student and personnel records are closed to research use for 80 years.

Restrictions are noted at the folder level.

Permission to publish

Permission to publish is required through August 27, 2037.

Extent

198 cubic feet (211 boxes)
The Daniel Bell personal archive documents the academic and professional career of Daniel Bell as a teacher, writer, consultant, and researcher, with materials dating back to the mid-1930s and up to Bell’s death in 2011, but with the heaviest concentration of material dating from 1940 to 1990. Bell saved all of these materials himself, storing this voluminous collection in multiple rooms in his residence in Cambridge and in his summer house on Martha’s Vineyard. In various places throughout the collection, Bell makes it clear that he saved these files for future researchers to use, but laments that he does not have the time to organize them. The collection is a valuable resource for research in the intellectual history of the social sciences and the study of the economic and social trends that shaped American society in the twentieth century. Bell was a prolific researcher, correspondent, and author, and thus much of the collection consists of correspondence, published and unpublished manuscripts, lectures, and course materials. The collection documents Bell's principal areas of research including labor and its central relationship to capital; socialism's impact on American political life; ideologies in the organization of society; the shifting trajectory of Marxism; intellectual history and philosophy; the future of Israel, Sociology as a field and epistemological framework; and the development of the post-industrial society. Also documented in this collection are Bell's interests in forecasting methodology, the impact of technology in society, higher education, and capitalism's cultural contradictions.

Bell, "a relentless publisher," appears to have kept everything related to his prolific and disparate research interests, including news clippings, reprints, journal and magazine articles, government reports, newsletters, and newspapers. Hence, a majority of the collection consists of these research files. Correspondence files include Bell's communication with many members of a group of American writers and literary critics based in New York City in the mid-20th century, known as the New York Intellectuals, including Sidney Hook, Lionel Trilling, Irving Howe, Hannah Arendt, and Mary McCarthy. Other correspondence files document Bell's involvement with the American Committee for Cultural Freedom, the United States affiliate of the anti-Communist Congress for Cultural Freedom. During the Cold War, the Congress for Cultural Freedom sought to encourage intellectuals to be critical of the Soviet Union and Communism and combat the strength of the Soviet myth among the Western cultural elite. Bell was involved in the Socialist movement as a young man, but he was always a conservative member of the party. He became a respected voice in the academy, and his involvement in anti-communist groups generated respect and moral authority, making him uniquely positioned to help old friends during the Red Scare. Bell wrote affidavits for scholars and organizations targeted by McCarthy, and because of his anti-communism work, these affidavits went a long way. Many of these affidavits can be found in this collection.

Bell was a generous correspondent, writing to interested students and scholars frequently to answer questions. Bell’s correspondence is filled with his theories and thoughts, and it is a rich area for researchers that are interested in Bell’s discussions with other scholars. Bell described his style of correspondence and thinking as “Talmudic,” with an emphasis placed on the text itself. This means that his correspondence is filled with detailed argumentation, but this detail could lead to more fervent disagreement between correspondents. Bell’s correspondence also sheds light on his interest in buying and selling prints, and his time on the boards of the print collections at the Harvard Art Museums and Boston’s Museum of Fine Art.

Organization and association files document Bell's activities as the editor and contributing editor to several academic journals including The New Leader, The Public Interest, Daedalus, Partisan Review, The American Scholar,The American Prospect, and Dissent. Other organization files document Bell's activities as a member of several government commissions and public policy organizations including the President's Commission for a National Agenda for the Eighties, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Manuscripts and drafts found among Bell's writings in this collection document his intellectual work for over a fifty year period. Among the most prominent files are those related to Bell's most influential books, The End of Ideology (1960), The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (1976), and The Coming of the Post-Industrial Society (1973). The collection also contains records produced by Bell as a professor at the University of Chicago (1945-1948), Columbia University (1959-1969), and at Harvard University (1969-1989, emeritus 1990). Personal materials include diplomas, family correspondence, letters and diary excerpts from Bell’s youth, photographs, and a limited amount of material related to Bell's wife, literary critic Pearl Bell. Talk and lecture files document Bell's participation at conferences, roundtable discussions, workshops, and seminars on a wide variety of topics both in the United States and abroad. Scattered among the files are photographs, film negatives, compact disks, and video cassette tapes.

Biographical note on Daniel Bell

Daniel Bell (1919-2011), sociologist, writer, and educator, was the Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University, where he taught from 1969 to 1990. Bell's main academic focus was on post-industrialism; he posited that the age of an industrial mass production economy was being replaced by an information- and service-based consumerist economy founded on technology. He also wrote extensively on the failures of socialism in America. Bell identified strongly throughout his life with the New York Intellectuals, a group of mostly Jewish academics, poets, literary critics, and other artists and thinkers who grew to prominence together during the 1930s and 1940s. Some members of this group, most notably Irving Kristol, a long-time friend of Bell’s, became prominent voices in the neo-conservative movement. As a result, Bell was often associated with the neo-conservatives, despite his protests.

Born Daniel Bolotsky in 1919 in New York City to immigrant Jewish parents from Eastern Europe, his family changed its last name to Bell when he was thirteen years old. He received a Bachelor's degree in Science and Social Science from the City College of New York in 1938, and then enrolled in Columbia Law School. He withdrew the following year before earning a Law degree, but left the University with a Master's degree in 1939.

Bell began his professional life as a journalist. In 1941, he joined the staff of the New Leader magazine, where he became managing editor, and from 1948 to 1959, he was labor editor of Fortune magazine. For two years he also edited the bulletin of the Union for Democratic Action, a precursor to the postwar liberal anti-communist group, Americans for Democratic Action. He then shifted to a career in academia, beginning with a teaching position at the University of Chicago in the 1940s. However, his passion for journalism and editorial work persisted throughout his career. Bell served on the editorial boards of The American Scholar, Daedalus, The American Prospect, and the Newsletter of the Committee on Intellectual Correspondence at various points of his life. Perhaps most notably, in 1965, together with colleague Irving Kristol, Bell founded and edited Public Interest, a social policy journal. Bell left Public Interest over political differences with Kristol in 1982.

In 1959, Bell joined the sociology faculty at Columbia University, where he remained until 1969. While at Columbia, Bell earned a PhD in 1960 for his dissertation entitled, "The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties," which was immediately published for public consumption. During his time at Columbia, he also wrote Reforming of General Education (1968), which was commissioned by Dean Jacques Barzun as an overall guide for universities interested in providing a liberal arts education. In 1965, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences initiated the Commission on the Year 2000 to investigate structural changes in society that would have a long-term social impact; Bell served as the Commission's chairman.

In 1969, Bell was invited to teach at Harvard University through an initiative begun by Dean McGeorge Bundy to bring broad intellectuals to Harvard. While Bell was at Harvard, he published two of his most notable works: The Coming of Post- Industrial Society (1973) and The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (1978), which were both ranked among the 100 most influential books since World War II by The Times Literary Supplement in London.

In addition to his writings and teaching, Bell participated in various government initiatives. During the 1950s, he worked with the Congress for Cultural Freedom, an anti-communist advocacy group that was later found to be sponsored by the CIA. He also served as a member of the President's Commission on Technology from 1964 to 1965, and, in 1979, as a member of the President's Commission on a National Agenda for the 1980s. Bell was also the visiting Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at Cambridge University in 1987.

Over the course of his career, Bell received several awards and distinctions, including honorary degrees from Harvard and 17 other universities, the Tocqueville Prize, awarded by the French government (1999), the Talcott Parsons Prize for the Social Sciences from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1993), and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Sociological Association (1992). Bell also wrote and edited many other books, including Marxian Socialism in the United States (1952), The New American Right (1955), and Toward the Year 2000 (1968). His first two marriages, to Nora Potashnick and Elaine Graham, ended in divorce; his marriage to Potashnick produced one daughter, Jordy Bell (born 1960). Bell married literary critic Pearl Kazin (1922-2011) in 1960; the couple had one child, David Bell (born 1961). Bell died on January 25, 2011 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Arrangement

The physical arrangement of the archive and the listing order within the inventory diverge. Although the archive remains in the physical order in which it was acquired by the Harvard University Archives, the inventory is organized into categories. Within each category, folders are listed in order by box and folder number. The categories are as follows:
Archivist-assigned categories
  1. Biographical--Daniel Bell
  2. Biographical--Family
  3. Biographical--Pearl Bell
  4. Correspondence--Family
  5. Correspondence--Pearl Bell
  6. Correspondence--Personal
  7. Correspondence--Professional
  8. Legal and financial documents
  9. Organizations and associations
  10. Organizations and associations--AAAS (American Academy of Arts and Sciences)
  11. Organizations and associations--Committee of Intellectual Correspondence
  12. Organizations and associations--Fortune
  13. References and resources
  14. References and resources--Pearl Bell
  15. Talks and lectures
  16. Talks and lectures--Daniel Bell
  17. Talks and lectures--Pearl Bell
  18. Teaching
  19. Teaching--Cambridge
  20. Teaching--Chicago
  21. Teaching--Columbia
  22. Teaching--Harvard
  23. Writings--Contracts
  24. Writings--Daniel Bell
  25. Writings--Pearl Bell
  26. Writings--Reviews of Bell's work

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Daniel Bell personal archive was acquired by the Harvard University Archives through donation:
  1. Accession 18559; received 2012 September 20 from David Bell and Jordy Bell.

Related Materials

The Harvard University Archives also holds:
  1. Daniel Bell unpublished manuscripts, [circa 1960s -1990] (HUM 295)
  2. Daniel Bell letters to Deborah Brown, 1980-1992 (HUM 296)

Inventory update

This document last updated 2019 August 15.

Processing Information

Processed January 2013-November 2017 by Dominic Grandinetti, Juliana Kuipers, and Olivia Mandica-Hart with editorial and project contributions from Kate Bowers, Robin McElheny, and Jennifer Pelose.

Additional description, including enhanced biographical notes, scope and content notes, and folder notes, were provided by Pforzheimer Fellow Lucian Bessmer in July 2018.
Folder description conventions
  1. When received, the archive had little discernable order. Archivists retained the original physical arrangement as received as much as possible. Provision of a physical organization that would provide thematic access was deemed potentially destructive to potential contextual meaning of the archive, so archivists assigned a category to each folder. These categories serve as the grouping mechanism under which folders are listed.
  2. If material was received in a folder with an accurate folder title, Bell's original folder title was transcribed. If the material was loose or the folder bore no information or bore misleading information, archivists devised a title. Any folder titles or portions of titles devised by the archivists are enclosed in square brackets.
  3. If the folder bore date information about the folder contents, the date information was transcribed. If the archvist determined the date of the material, date information is enclosed in square brackets.
  4. Many papers were loose in boxes and archivists were obliged, for preservation and physical organization, to enclose these in folders. If the folder was assembled by an archivist, this is noted.
  5. Folder scope and contents notes in the Correspondence--Professional series added by Pforzheimer Fellow Lucian Bessmer have header text identifying their source.
Link to catalog
Title
Bell, Daniel, 1919-2011. Daniel Bell personal archive, 1903-2008 : an inventory Accession 18559
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
EAD ID
hua05017

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

Contact:
Pusey Library
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2461