Philosopher and "great European" Dahrendorf dies

Thu Jun 18, 2009 1:09pm EDT
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By Avril Ormsby

LONDON (Reuters) - Philosopher and politician Ralf Dahrendorf, who claimed class was defined by power not wealth, has died of cancer, aged 80.

Dahrendorf, born in the German city of Hamburg, took British citizenship in 1988, and served as a politician in both countries and as a European Commissioner.

"Europe has lost one of its most important thinkers and intellectuals," Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Brussels on Thursday while attending a European Union summit.

"We've lost a great European. He made great contributions to European integration both from a theoretical and practical point of view."

Dahrendorf, who died in Cologne, Germany, on Wednesday, was also a renowned academic, with his most famous work "Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society" challenging Marx's theory that class was based on property. Rather it was rooted in how much power somebody could yield, he said.

Dahrendorf worked as a researcher under the philosopher Karl Popper at the London School of Economics (LSE) in the early 1950s before forging close ties with the university.

He became a director between 1974 and 1984 and later a governor in 1986.

Howard Davies, director of LSE, said the university was "deeply saddened" by Dahrendorf's death. "His contribution to the school, as our director, our historian and a governor, has been unrivalled," he said in a statement.   Continued...