Political Scientist, Walter Dean Burnham, Passed Away at 92

APSA mourns the passing of noted political scientist, Walter Dean Burnham.

Walter Dean Burnham, a political scientist who theorized that political parties realign periodically in tectonic shifts that he called “America’s surrogate for revolution,” died on Oct. 4 in San Antonio. He was 92.

Professor Burnham, who taught most recently at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Texas, Austin, suggested that realignments of political parties had occurred roughly every three to four decades since 1896. He taught at Boston, Kenyon and Haverford Colleges and Washington University in St. Louis before joining the M.I.T. faculty in 1971 and the government department of the University of Texas in 1988. He became professor emeritus in 2004.

Professor Burnham explored his ideas on political realignment and declining voter turnout in his influential article “The Changing Shape of the American Political Universe,” published in 1965 in the American Political Science Review. He expanded those themes into a book, “Critical Elections and the Mainsprings of American Politics” (1970), which held that party realignments are typically prompted by critical elections, wars and depressions.

Read the full article in The New York Times.

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