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Peter Michael Blau
Full name Peter Michael Blau
Born February 7, 1918
Vienna, Austria
Died March 12, 2002
Era 20th-century
Region Sociology
School Elmhurst College, Columbia University
Main interests Macrosociology, Organizational Sociology, Social Structure, Stratification, Bureaucracy
Notable ideas Co-founder of Organizational Sociology (with James Samuel Coleman, Alvin Ward Gouldner, Seymour Martin Lipset, Philip Selznick)

Peter Michael Blau (February 7, 1918–March 12, 2002) was an Austrian sociologist and theorist. Born in Vienna, Austria, he immigrated to the United States in 1939. He received his PhD at Columbia University in 1952 before moving on to teach at the University of Chicago from 1953 to 1970. In 1970 he returned to Columbia University, where he continued to teach until 1988. From 1988 to 2000 he taught as an emeritus professor at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in the same department as his wife, Judith Blau. His sociological specialty was in organizational and social structures, in particular bureaucracy. He produced theories with many applications within social phenomena, including upward mobility, occupational opportunity, heterogeneity, and how population structures can influence human behavior. He also was the first to map out the wide variety of social forces, dubbed “Blau Space” by Miller McPherson. Blau-space is still used as a guide by sociologists and has been expanded to include areas of sociology Blau himself never specifically covered.In 1974 Blau served as president of the American Sociological Association.


Famous Quote

One of his most famous quotes is: 'You can not marry an eskimo when no eskimo is around,'by which he meant that flourishing societies are pluralistic, egalitarian, and diverse, providing their members with cosmopolitan opportunities.

Early life

Peter Blau was born in 1918 in recently liberated Vienna, Austria after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was born into a Jewish family as fascist power within Europe grew and Hitler’s influence within Austria became increasingly evident. Hitler’s rise to power and WWII would impact Blau’s life tremendously, claiming family, culture, and nearly his own life, however promise and opportunity also laid in his future. At the age of seventeen, Blau was convicted of high treason for speaking out against the repression demonstrated by the government through articles he wrote for the Socialist Worker’s Party, an underground newspaper distributor. He was coincidently released shortly after his instatement when the ban on political activity was lifted due to the National Socialists’ rise to power. When Hitler arrived in Austria In 1938 Blau attempted to escape to the independent Republic of Czechoslovakia, his sister was sent to England, and the rest of his family decided to stay in Austria. Blau’s attempt to flee proved unsuccessful; he was captured by Nazi forces, tortured, yet was once again released and made his way to Prague. With the help of his high school teacher, Blau obtained a travel permit to America in order to study. He would have to briefly occupy a French labor camp due to complications with his visa. He finally arrived in Le Havre, France where he received a refugee scholarship to Elmhurst College in Illinois through an American G.I. Blau earned his degree in Sociology, paving the way for his future work in sociological theory.

Later life

Peter Blau became an American citizen in the year 1943. In 1942 he returned to Europe after joining the United States Army and acted as an interrogator given his skills in the German language. He was awarded the bronze star for his duties however during this period of time Blau received word that his family had been killed in Auschwitz. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Elmhurst College, Blau continued his education at Columbia University and received his Ph.D in 1952. One of Blau’s most memorable and significant contributions to the field of sociology came in 1967 working together with Otis Dudley Duncan with the release of their book “The American Occupational Structure”. Sociological study benefitted significantly from this book with Blau’s and Duncan’s contributions towards social stratification. Blau is also known for his contributions towards sociological theory, the aim of his book, “Exchange and Power in Social life” (1964) was "(to analyze) the processes that govern the associations among men as a prolegomenon of a theory of social structure." [1] highlighted his two distinguished theoretical orientations, contemporary exchange theory and structural theory. Blau's 1977 book, "Inequality and Homogeneity" presents "A macrosociological theory of social structure"[2] where the foundation of his theory "is a quantitative conception of social structure in terms of the distributions of people among social positions that affect their social relations."[2] Its Blau served as the president of the American Sociological Association from 1973-1974 and through this window was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1980. He died on March 12, 2002 of acute respiratory distress syndrome.


  • Bureaucracy in Modern Society (1956)
  • A Theory of Social Integration, "The American Journal of Sociology", Vol. LXV, No. 6, p. 545, (May 1960)
  • Exchange and Power in Social Life, (1964)
  • The American Occupational Structure, (1967)
  • A Formal Theory of Differentiation in Organizations, (1970)
  • On the Nature of Organizations (1974)
  • Approaches to the Study of Social Structure, (editor). New York: The Free Press A Division of Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. (1975)
  • Inequality and Heterogeneity : a primitive theory of social structure , (1977)
  • Crosscutting Social Circles: Testing a Macrostructural Theory of Intergroup Relations, with Joseph E. Schwartz (1984)


  • Ritzer, George. Sociological Theory. Seventh Edition. 1. New York: The Mc-Graw Hill Companies, Inc., 2008. Print.
  • Blau, Peter. "Exchange and Power in Social Life". 1st. 1. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc, 1964. Print.
  • Blau, Peter. Inequality and Heterogeneity. 1st edition. 1. New York: The Free Press, 1977. Print.
  • Scott, Richard and Calhoun, Craig. "Peter Michael Blau." Bibliographic Memoirs. The National Academies Press, Web. 16 Oct 2009. <>.


  1. ^ Peter Blau "Exchange and Power in Social Life" (1964)
  2. ^ a b Peter Blau,"Inequality and Homogeneity" (1977)

External links

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