Snell Putney, RIP

Professor Snell Putney wrote “The Normal Neurotic” which is one of the best Sociology books ever and it was required reading for his class: Social Disorganization. He was in the process of writing another book which turned out to have a long academic title. Yet in that class he predicted so much of the disorganization that we are seeing today in America and the world.

Social Disorganization was such a great name for a Sociology course. I’m sure there was a short course description for this class. I needed a certain number of units for a minor in Soc and it probably fit into my tight academic schedule. However, this class is the one that continues to help me make sense of the crazy, insane times we live in. I’ve never googled Professor Putney’s name before — but for some reason I wanted to find out what his follow-up book was to “Normal Neurotics” (or the long academic title: Adjusted American: Normal Neurosis in the Individual and Society) .

It turns out that the overly long title of his book would instantly discourage anyone from curling up on a long winter’s night to read: The conquest of society;: Sociological observations for the autonomous revolt against the autosystems which turn humanity into servo-men” It was probably sold as “The Conquest of Society” — which still doesn’t give potential readers a clue to the precognition that Snell Putney had of what was to come of the events and forces put in motion way back in the early 1970s.

Thanks to the vast Internet and people who hoard books I have located a used copy of “The Conquest of Society”. Somewhere in my library I still have the notes from Snell Putney’s “Social Disorganization” Class and I still have my original copy of “Normal Neurotic” on my book shelf.

My question is why have I been remembering this one class so vividly right now, and the insights I learned  from that class:  that there is so sort of order in the chaos of the world. Then when I decide to Google Snell Putney’s name — I learn that he has just died.

Below is Snell Putney’s Obit from his home town newspaper in the Florida Keys. I would rank him up there with the best and brightest of the non-Ivy league schools has produced. And frankly I can’t think of any so called Ivy league schools who have produce anyone in Snell Putney’s league.


Gifted scholar, poet and environmentalist Snell “Mick” Putney of No Name Key died unexpectedly at the tender age of 80 on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2009, from a rare fungal infection, blastomycosis.

Born in Lincoln, Neb., to Williams W. and Hazel Snell Putney on Feb. 27, 1929, Mick earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Nebraska, before receiving his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Oregon. A professor for most of his adult life, he taught at Drake University, Florida State University, San Jose State University and Union Institute in the course of his long career.

Mick and his wife, Alicia, first visited the Keys by sailboat in 1978, before buying a house in Key Largo in 1983. In 1990, the couple built their beautiful solar home on No Name Key, which has been the site of many lectures and tours educating people on the possibilities of a sun-powered residence. What many people who toured the home don’t realize is that Mick built most of the house himself, as he did a 40-foot sailboat, and always had a workshop wherever he went. As his wife likes to put it, “Mick could fix everything … except a computer.” Mick was trailblazing, boating, building and fixing things up until the last month of his life.

Most people knew Mick from his tireless work to protect the environment, particularly that of the Florida Keys. He served as president of the Key Deer Protection Alliance for almost a decade, only ending his tenure in early November 2009. He also served on the board of directors for Last Stand for many years. Mick did everything a man could do to minimize his footprint on his beloved green earth. For those of us who will miss him so, and will celebrate his work, we can attest that his impact on all of us was enormous and profound, and will long be remembered.

Mick is survived by his wife of 35 years, Alicia Putney; his sister, Patricia Watson of Portland, Ore.; his son, Gregory Putney of Selma, Ore.; his daughter, Cynde Mitchell and her two children, Daniel and Amelia, of Peaks Island, Maine; and his beloved cat, Tee Cee.

Mick requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to one of his favorite charities: the Key Deer Protection Alliance, Last Stand, Witness for Peace – Southeast Regional Office (919-856-9468), the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (716-636-1425).

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, 2009, at the National Key Deer Refuge, at the head of the Manillo trail, where Mick donated more than 2,000 hours of his volunteer service.


2 Responses

  1. It sounds as though you knew Dr. Putney.
    If so, you may enjoy the article “Clever Green” @

  2. Yeas ago (early 60’s), I took a class from Snell Putney at SJS and spent a small amount of time on his boat in the Santa Cruz area. I believe Snell was recruiting a group for a long saIling venture which I wasn’t able to take advantage of, although I dearly wished to do so.

    Over the years I have thought and talked about some of his views which were published in the “Normal Neurotic”, an important book. Just last evening, I talked with a group about the concept of the search for the “lost self”, viz. relationships, which Dr. Putney discussed so brilliantly in that book.

    My memory doesn’t serve me well enough to elaborate on his importance, nor that of his colleague whose name I can’t recall.

    Larry Lund

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