The Making of Elihu Katz, 1926–1956: Generations and Ethnoreligious Identities in the Transnational Development of Communication Studies

Peter Simonson


Elihu Katz (1926–2021) was among the leading media researchers of the 20th century, making major contributions to the fields of communication, sociology, and public opinion research over a 7-decade career. His life is both significant in its own right and a window into broader historical developments: He was a member of the first generation of Jewish-born scholars to enjoy relatively unconstrained career possibilities in the United States and among a group of American-educated scholars who helped develop the social sciences in Israel, where he established the field of communication. This article, guided by the concepts of generations and opportunity structures, provides a sociologically infused intellectual biography of the young Katz as shaped by historically specific patterns of social communication and ethnoreligious identity. It shows how his lifelong thought style came into place by the time he was 30 and throws new light on the transnational development of communication studies in its formative, mid-century period.


Elihu Katz, history of communication studies, generations, Columbia University, Jewish academics, Israel, gendered opportunity structures

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