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UC Berkeley sociologist Robert Bellah chosen by White House to receive National Humanities Medal
15 Dec 2000

By Patricia McBroom, Media Relations

Berkeley - Robert N. Bellah, the Elliott Professor of Sociology Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, has been chosen by President Clinton to receive the prestigious National Humanities Medal, to be awarded in ceremonies in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 20.

Bellah, honored for his scholarship on American religious and civic life, is one of twelve artists and scholars to receive this year's award, administered by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Other recipients include authors Barbara Kingsolver and Toni Morrison and musician/composer Quincy Jones.

Senior author on the influential 1985 book, "Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life," and its sequel, "The Good Society"(1992), Bellah is frequently in demand as a commentator on the social and spiritual health of the American mind and American institutions. He is known particularly for his analysis of the impact of Protestant-based individualism on social integration.

Since it was first published, "Habits of the Heart" has sold half a million copies. The updated edition is considered even more relevant today than when the book was written in the mid-1980s.

The authors wrote then that a social movement was needed to, among other things, "restore the dignity and legitimacy of democratic politics. We have suspicious Americans are of politics as an area in which arbitrary differences of opinion and interest can be resolved only by power and manipulation."

Unhappily, said Bellah, "those statements are even more true at the present moment than when we wrote them."

Since he retired three years ago from UC Berkeley where he was in the College of Letters & Science, Bellah has continued writing and lecturing. He has three or four books in progress; the nearest to completion is a book on Japan, reflecting a return to his earlier academic interests in Japanese religion.

Other works by Bellah include "The Broken Covenant: American Civil Religion in Time of Trial" (1975) and the co-edited book, "Uncivil Religion: Interreligious Hostility in America" (1987).

Following the awards ceremony at Constitution Hall in Washington, the medalists will be honored at a White House dinner.



White House press release

College of Letters & Science


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