Shmuel Noah Eisenstadt (Hebrew: שמואל נח אייזנשטדט) (born September 10, 1923 in Warsaw) is an Israeli sociologist. In 1959 he was appointed to a teaching post in the sociology department of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Since 1990 he has been a professor emeritus. He has held countless guest professorships, at among others, the University of Chicago, Harvard University, the University of Zurich, the University of Vienna, the University of Bern, Stanford and the University of Heidelberg. He has received a number of prizes, the Balzan prize and the Max-Planck research prize. He is also the 2006 winner of the Holberg International Memorial Prize. He is a member of many academies, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Advisory Editors Council of the Social Evolution & History Journal.
In the field of sociology he has become known as a "sociologist of youth" (From Generation to Generation), a work closely related to the ideas of Talcott Parsons.
Eisenstadt's research contributed considerably to the understanding that the modern trend of a eurocentric interpretation of the cultural program developed in the west is a natural development model seen in all societies [...] the European model is only one: it was merely the earliest. It started the trend. But social reactions, whether in the USA, Canada, Japan or in Southeast Asia took place with completely different cultural reagents. (Frankfurter Rundschau, March 22, 2000)
His family moved from Central Europe to Poland a few generations before Eisenstadt was born in 1923 in Warsaw, Poland. In the early 1930’s Eisenstadt’s widowed mother took him to Jerusalem and he was educated in Palestine from the age of 12. In 1940, Eisenstadt studied at the Hebrew University where he received his M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology. After the 1947-48 school year, he went back to Jerusalem to be an assistant lecturer in Martin Buber’s department under whom he had written his master’s thesis. Eisenstadt stayed at the Hebrew University and began teaching there, served as the Chairman of the Department of Sociology from 1950-1969 and also served as Dean of the Faculty of Humanities for a few years.
Eisenstadt has contributed to the understanding of cultures and civilizations. As a social scientist, “Eisenstadt has focused on the interplay between cultural and structural processes of change and on inherent tensions and antinomies rather than on uniform process of development” Eisenstadt has researched broad themes of social change, modernities and civilizations. One of his arguments is that “fundamentalism is not a traditional but a modern phenomenon”.
Eisenstadt sums up his views saying “I try to understand what was the historical experience of the great civilizations…to try to understand the major dynamics of these civilizations and how they became modern societies, how they modernize and how they develop different cultural programs of modernity”.
In honor of Eisenstadts’s contributions to sociology Erik Cohen, Moshe Lissak, and Uri Almagor compiled the book, Comparative Social Dynamics: Essays in Honor of S.N Eisenstadt. The contributions of this book were written by Eisenstadt’s former students and colleagues at the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The articles relate to Eisenstadt’s major themes in the study of cultures, modernization, and social and political change. Eisenstadt’s work touches many different fields of sociology, time periods and cultures and the editors felt the leading concept of Eisenstadt’s work was social dynamics.
Professor Edward Shils, Eisenstadt’s professor at one point and long-time friend says, “no one has done more to raise the appreciation of the possibilities of sociology in the fields of traditional humanistic scholarship than S.N. Eisenstadt.”
Eisenstadt is a member of: Israeli Academy of Sciences, Honorary Foreign Members of the American Philosophical Society, Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences in the U.s., Honorary Foreign Member at the Academy of Arts and Sciences, Honorary Foreign Research Fellow at the Institute of Sociology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Honorary Fellow of the London School of Economics and Political Sciences.