Jump to content

Mel Pollner's Obituary


Recommended Posts

The LA Times ran an obituary for my dad today. Here it is:

Melvin Pollner, 67; UCLA sociologist

He studied the shared assumptions held by communities about what is true and false, and how they are challenged in places such as court, where versions of reality can differ.

By Mary Rourke, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

November 17, 2007

Sociologist Melvin Pollner, who explored the assumptions communities share about what is true and false, in part by observing activities in courts of law, psychiatric units and other places where at least two sides of a story are put forth, has died. He was 67.

A longtime faculty member at UCLA, Pollner died Nov. 2 of lung cancer at UCLA Medical Center, according to the university.

"Mel Pollner trained a generation of sociologists to think anew about how we build our sense of reality and community," colleague John Heritage said in an interview this week.

Pollner's core idea and the practical evidence he used to support it are "immensely original and they represent an enduring contribution to sociology," Heritage wrote in a eulogy posted on a memorial website, www.melpollner.com.

Pollner's main theory, Heritage explained, is that "all of us live inside a kind of bubble, like the Earth's atmosphere, only made up of beliefs, knowledge and assumptions" that help define what is real and unreal, good and bad. The "bubble" theory applies to the world community as well as to individual societies, religions and other groups.

Pollner pointed out that shared assumptions are challenged all the time. "The bubble ruptures," Heritage said.

To find out what happens next when that bubble bursts, Pollner spent weeks at a time in psychiatric clinics and in court, where versions of reality can differ. For example, Heritage said, "in psychiatric units we see families in denial about mental illness. In courts of law we hear incompatible versions of the same event."

Reaching a resolution involves negotiation. Otherwise, "a split in versions of reality will lead to a split in ideologies," Heritage said, mentioning religious sects as one example.

Pollner wrote about his theory in his book, "Mundane Reason: Reality in Everyday and Sociological Discourse," published in 1987. He later applied it to various "bubbles," including those of the financial market.

"Pollner had one core idea, and he worked it," Heritage said. "It was a brilliant idea that had a huge impact. Other social theorists have followed up on it."

Born Oct. 13, 1940, in New York City, Pollner attended the Bronx High School of Science and earned a bachelor's degree from the City College of New York. He went on to earn a master's degree from UC Berkeley and a doctorate from UC Santa Barbara. He joined the UCLA faculty in 1968.

He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Judy; a son, Adrian Pollner of Los Angeles; a daughter, Leslie Pollner Levey of Washington, D.C.; a sister, Harriet Morelli of the Bronx; and a niece and two nephews.

Contributions in his name can be made to the Lungevity Foundation, 2421 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, Ill., 60614, or online at http://events.lungevity.org/goto/melvinpollner

Link to comment
Share on other sites

WOW!! What an icon! Your father will always be smiling down on you every day and Nite forever. So sory to hear this and PRay for strength and stability for you!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Double WOW... he was such an extrodinary individual. You must have been so proud to have him as your dad.

I am so sorry for his passing but so glad for the way that he passed. It was beautiful.

I hope you are coping. We are always here for you.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.