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Barrington Moore Jr., 92, Analyst of Totalitarianism, Dies

Barrington Moore Jr., 92, Analyst of Totalitarianism, Dies

Wolfgang Saxon, New York Times

Barrington Moore Jr., a Harvard sociologist whose studies of the contemporary human condition led him to dissect the totalitarian society, particularly as it evolved in the Soviet Union, died last Sunday at his home in Cambridge, Mass. He was 92.

His death was announced by the university, where he taught from 1951 to 1979. He had also been affiliated with the Russian Research Center at Harvard since 1948.

Dr. Moore followed an interdisciplinary approach, always placing social change in its historical context. He distrusted models of social behavior that ignored politics, economics and a multiplicity of other possible factors and events that helped determine it.His methodology had its roots in years he spent as a wartime strategic analyst for the O.S.S., the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency, and a stint at the interdisciplinary social science division of the University of Chicago.

His best-known book, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World (Beacon, 1966), remains in print. J. H. Plumb, in a review for The New York Times, called it "a profoundly important book."

Professor Plumb wrote that Dr. Moore had tackled a vast topic, namely "the routes by which various countries have come to the modern industrial world." In discussing their significant differences, he also provided "exceptionally perceptive" social analyses to compare conditions in, say, India and Prussia, Professor Plumb suggested.

"In fact," he continued, "the book is stuffed as a plum pudding with good things. And it is easy to read."

An earlier work, Soviet Politics: The Dilemma of Power (Harvard, 1950), helped "sort out communism from Russianism," as The Times's reviewer Edward Crankshaw put it. Another, Injustice: The Social Bases of Obedience and Revolt (Sharpe, 1978), explored why people at the bottom of a society sometimes accept their victimization and why, under other circumstances, they man the barricades.

Dr. Moore's two most recent volumes are in print: Moral Aspects of Economic Growth and Other Essays (Cornell, 1998), and Moral Purity and Persecution in History (Princeton, 2000).

Barrington Moore Jr. was born in Washington and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Williams College. Having received his Ph.D. in sociology from Yale in 1941, he worked for the Justice Department and was posted as an analyst to the Office of Strategic Studies — the wartime O.S.S. He joined the staff at Harvard in 1948 as a senior research fellow at the Russian Research Center.

He is survived by a brother, Dr. Peter Van C. Moore, of Bethesda, Md.