For Stanley Hoffmann, 1928-2015

           Social Studies was an interdisciplinary major for 25 students, created by Stanley Hoffmann, talking with other intellectuals, like Alexander Gerschenkron, the economic historian, and Barrington Moore, the political scientist/historical sociologist at Harvard.  It was not social science because though Stanley kept up with it for a while, he thought it was mostly amusing.  IQ testing as a centerpiece, I would later discover, was central to the eugenics whose highest movement – the Nazis – he had retreated from, with his mother, as a child in France, moving from Paris to Nice, and though a Romanian friend had come home just as the Gestapo arrived and been sent to his death, been saved.  Vichy was not quite as exterminating as the Ukraine.  Social “science” resisted or suppressed the insights of Marx or Freud (or many others), and was – and is – pretty thin gruel…

        Stanley had been to graduate school in France – he also got a degree in intenrational law but found it boring  – and revered De Gaulle for saving him and other Jews. But Stanley also felt a deep loyalty to Harvard where he had studied, brought by McGeorge Bundy.  He was, however, less than any emigre I know merely loyal; he was not tolerant of the stupidities and dangers of power; he was frankly and ironically critical of all forms of pretence and puffery, and he would become a critic of “Gulliver’s” wars, and often madness…

      About Harvard, however, the loyalty (over 58 years) as well as creativity ran deep…

      As a sophomore, I met Stanley at the first meeting of the program.  He gave, as usual, a deliciously ironic speech.  To justify the major, he conjured disciplinary insularity.  He stretched up his jacket with his left  arm, covered his face, and said: “now, speaking as a psychologist, I can say…,” then his right arm, “speaking as an economist…” and so forth.   That there are only the great problems of war and peace, and others, and that they must be studied deeply, and not through an ideological slant or prism (having studied Comte, he was never impressed by pretensions to science), was the founding principle of his intellectual life, as it should be – though perhaps rarely is – for any serious person.
      “Now you are at Harvard,” he said, “and you will see many of the stars, and discover that many of the stars are dead…”  That people make one discovery or contribution for which they become famous, and then repeat the thing they said, are hard of hearing toward others, is, unfortunately, a leading quality in academia.
    Stanley was a great lecturer  (John Rawls was deeper philosophically and at the end of his life, when I ran across him at meetings or in Cambridge, it was a pleasure to listen to every word; but Stanley was dazzlingly European…). He was so because of an immense and diverse learning, a deep understanding and sometime sympathy, especially if challenged, for views which came from a different place – he disliked the boredom of not listening – and, of course, his French sense of irony.  He did not dwell in Montesquieu, but I often thought, reading the Baron deeply, that some of that esprit of French life and thought was his in a magisterial degree.  His writing, while often very interesting, was less good than his speaking – he would take risks or reveal an erudition or cleverness in speaking which he was a little more cautious about in writing; his irony, like Raymond Aron’s perhaps sometimes prevented him from travelling fundamentally new paths  – and to hear Stanley talk was pleasure.  

     Stanley would speak without notes.  He contrasted with many professors (especially many at conferences) who just read their writing.  For a long time, I thought that preparing, but just talking was something I got from radical politics.  Looking back. however, Stanley was a wonderful example.

       Stanley always took individuals as they were, listened to them, had  conversations – often witty and concerned, frequently not lengthy – with them.  He encouraged each person to go her own way.
     Thus, Social Studies 10, which he inspired, consisted of meetings of 7 students with two tutors in different disciplines. I had Fritz Ringer, a wonderful intellectual historian of Germany and aficiando of Max Weber, and Sandy Lakoff, an interesting political scientist who told me, as a sophomore, that  I should devote myself to the government of Pakistan – I had lived there – and corner the market  in political science (I could never figure out why Sandy was in Social Studies…).  It was harder, as I mentioned in writing about the racist self-destruction of Marty Peretz  at the 50th anniversary of Social Studies  – see here, here and here – for Susan Jaffe, “our little Miss Radcliffe” as Ringer, patriarchally, in his worst moment – the memory is cringeworthy – called her.  None of us stood up to this, even though it made us uncomfortable, knew fully, except Susan, that and why it was wrong.   In a seminar for sophomores, we spent two weeks on Marx, two weeks on Weber, two weeks on Freud (Totem and Taboo), a week on Adam Smith, a week on David Hume, a week on Comte, a week on Durkheim,  a week on Frazier, the founder of Anthropology, a week on Karl Mannheim, and so on.  It was a lively introduction (unsurprisingly superficial or dismissive of Marx, frogs in a pond sizing up an ocean – that was not Stanley – lionizing of Weber, particularly the essays on “Politics as a Vocation” (great, but the reading was uncritical) and the revealing “Science as a Vocation,” respectful if distant toward Freud, and sometimes, making a fighting try with others.  It made us stretch from the beginning.  In his junior seminar on war, Stanley, unforgettably, had us read War and Peace – inspired by my mother who grew up with Russian novels, I had read it growing up so I was not lost, learned a lot….
       But the whole sequence led into a choice of junior seminars.  I took ones with Hoffmann on war in the fall and Barrington Moore in the spring which led as a senior to my taking Moore’s graduate course which became Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy and writing a thesis on why there was a peasant-based Communist Revolution in China but not a working class based Socialist Revolution in Germany.  It was characteristic of the program that theses reflected student interests, were bold, not reined in as in particular disciplines.
        Social Studies, like the later Center for European Studies, another great crossdisciplinary institution, was Stanley’s.  No one else had the breath of vision or learning or organizational driving force that made Social Studies or the Center possible.  I was saddened, though not surprised,  to discover, at the 50thanniversary, that Social Studies, after the sophomore year, has been made more practical, more narrow or disciplinary/pseudo-scientific (see my Democratic Individuality and Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy? for a specific account of what is pseudoscientific in an “empiricist,” overly bemused by statistics and unguided by theory or insight into competing theories (in physics, Einstein and Planck, in biology, Darwin and Mendel, in social “science,” ?) conception.  Still, Stanley’s spirit survives in its – potential – breadth, and in encouraging students, to some extent, to go their own way, to tromp across disciplines, to figure things out…
      But Stanley’s junior seminar did not work for me.  We read – and he criticized – some silly psychological approaches to war, among others, and read Lenin and Aron (somehow, not deeply), and I was looking for something more explanatory about social history, particularly the unbearable poverty in Pakistan, the odd role of the United States, the segregation and viciousness of the American South, the absence of integration at Harvard… Stanley had been saved by Corporal DeGaulle and Madame Michelin, the two members of the elite who famously joined the Resistance; Madame Michelin was praised, like Joan of Arc, not because France had become feminist but because decency and courage in the French elite were so rare.  Across the greatest fear (Nazis hunted in Europe and were a killing machine of Jews, Roma, Slavs especially in the East, as Timothy Snyder has recently – Black Earth –  rightly argued), De Gaulle had come through (so, of course, did the French Communists…).  In the turmoil of French student dissidence about Algeria (after Stanley had come to the US) and the police with capes loaded with lead (they would swing them at students and slash open their faces) or machine guns, De Gaulle had risen to negotiate independence.  Stanley identified with De Gaulle, and to some extent, sensible great power (but also imperial) politics.  Nonetheless, France, as it was, had outstandingly beaten Vichy and Nazi domination.
     But France, as it was, was also colonial (think of Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains in “Casablanca,” the Arabs as background/props for European conflict…).  It was this that Stanley was aware of, but did not form his point of view (I was sickened by racist domination early on, and the thought that no decent regime for ordinary people – that means you and me… – let alone a  serious democracy, was consistent with the spectrum of opinion, even the most decent, in the “West”)
      I spoke at the first protests agains the Vietnam war in spring of 1965, and in May, debated McGeorge Bundy, who had had the wisdom to bring Stanley to Harvard, but had become  the National Security Advisor for Lyndon Johnson.  I asked him “how does the government expect to win a war against a successful peasant revolution by restoring the landlords?” and some 800 people in Sanders Theater applauded (it was what was on people’s minds, but ducked or talked around by the 5 other  panelists).  McGeorge replied, “I have knowledge about how the US is doing which is classified and I  cannot release to the public – we are winning.”  In conversation before, he had  spoken of possessing “esoteric” knowledge.  He didn’t.   

     Instead, he had lies of American “intelligence” (the CIA’s Operation Phoenix led to the assassination of some 20,000 village leaders) and the scraps assembled by “counterinsurgency” experts like Douglas Pike at MIT (that counterinsurgency has gone through a further iteration in the Middle East is a tragedy for ordinary people there and for Americans, and has led, despite Obama,  to a decline and the rather dreadful state – the disappearance of the middle classes, the endless predatoriness of the .0001% down to attempts to cut food stamps for children by a “Republican” Congress – of American imperialism). 

   Stanley did not discuss this debate with me, but he had a vision of keeping Harvard together, of engaging in conversation about the War and America – as well as  the Harvard elite – not just cooperating in the exertion of power or arrogance.  France, of course, despite vast American aid (80% of the French military budget in 1954), had been defeated by the Vietminh.  I had read the French historical accounts by Bernard Fall, Denis Warner and Jean Lacouture, and had a good idea about the vacuity of the American State Department, later revealed by Daniel Ellsburg, in which there was never a serious argument for American intervention to support French colonialism – FDR had been outspoken against this; Truman betrayed him – and no person in the government, when Johnson escalated, knew Vietnamese…

       Stanley knew this, was critical of American arrogance.  One evening in 1967, in a great campus event,  I listened to Stanley debate Daniel Ellsburg, then an under-Secretary at the Pentagon, who had gone to fight with the Special Forces (killed Vietnamese) and supported the war. Stanley maintained rightly that the war was a mistake (it was also something far worse), and his nuance was way too much for Ellsberg (no bureaucrat, Ellsburg took some pride in his Special Forces’ work at the time, an unbecoming or macho monstrousness/foolishness).

    But when Ellsburg released the Pentagon Papers, I could not help wondering if that evening – the intellectual overmatch – had not had some effect on him.  Ellsburg has now been arrested about a hundred times for civil disobedience against American militarism, so he is, “wild man” as a biographer called him, a determined and courageous resister; he has also called persistently for an Edward Snowden, a Chelsea Manning, to tell the truth about the current American empire/militarism/the war complex, even under Obama…
      To further conversation after the Dow sit-in in fall, 1967 (I was the five hundredth person there and put on probation), Stanley created the Student-Faculty Advisory Committee (SFAC).  At the time, President Pusey had imagined student protestors who “wanted to tear Harvard down stone by stone and dance up and down in the rubble.”  He could not see  that dropping napalm from the skies on innocent people  – Louis Fieser, a Harvard chemist had invented and profited from it for Dow Chemical Corporation – might make us outraged.  The Times had published a photograph of a 9 year old, running naked down a dirt road in flames (she ultimately survived and emigrated to Canada).

    President Pusey had a sublime stupidity or unwillingness to hear which drove the Harvard strike.  Pusey was famous as a “defender of free speech,” but when Senator McCarthy had said “Harvard is a smelly mess of reds,” “the Kremlin on the Charles,” Pusey had responded “no, it isn’t.  There isn’t a single red on the Harvard faculty.” He had called in Jerome  Bruner, the founder of cognitive psychology, and Wendell Furry, a physicist, both of whom had been communists during World War II when the US was allied with the Soviet Union, and told them to testify if called against their colleagues.  Similarly, Dean McGeorge Bundy had threatened Robert Bellah, then a graduate student, that he must testify if called before the House UnAmerican Actvities Committee, and rat out people he had known.  Bellah went to McGill, later was brought back to Harvard by Talcott Parsons, and eventually told the story to the Chronicle for Higher Education….

     Stanley looked for something different.  As with most things, Harvard would have been a far better place for relying on Stanley.

     I remember once speaking at SFAC frankly about Harvard’s involvement in the War, and beginning with the invocation of Rousseau’s Second Discourse (on inequality) that I chose not to speak as a slave in the presence of his masters.  Stnaley, of course, was unhappy – his purpose in creating SFAC was hardly to enforce such a thing – and bemused by the reference to Rousseau; he was more deeply unhappy that the University was riven by the depth of student insight/protest, and that much of it was true.
      As a graduate student at this time, I had taken a seminar with Stanley on French radicalism (he also gave a brilliant one on the French right the next year, which I went to some meetings of).  I had stayed in Paris with my friend Bob Leonhardt, gone to Althusser’s seminars at the Ecole Normale, knew something of French radicalism.  What was fun about Stanley was sheer inventiveness and that, when pressed, he could go anywhere you could go. A grad student at Harvard who has since become a corrupt campaigner for the Right (a “birther,” inter alia)  was in that seminar, and gave a talk on Fourier that was sadly distinguished only for his not reading any Fourier beforehand – I think he whispered that he had looked at an Encyclopedia Brittanica entry.  Stanley was bored and the conversation was not lively.  Stanley could sometimes go with the flow of the conversation…
    But I worked quite hard on Blanqui as did some others on Leon Blum or Babeuf.  The result was that Stanley, who read a lot, engaged us in insightful and sometimes inspiring conversation about it.   It was this quality in Stanley I most admired, respected, learned from. I wrote a 70 page paper on Blanqui and Lenin  – how Lenin understood and relied on mass movements and contrary to a common invective in the West, was no Blanquiste.  Stanley would write brief, insightful comments on papers, often a sentence with four unusual and striking adjectives (and in recommendations for people; he was, rightly,  taken very seriously), praised mine briefly for its insight and style, and urged me to publish it.   That meant a lot. I asked him about this later, but he did not have specific advice as to where.  I would have had to cut it to 25 pages, and mainstream journals at the time had difficulty with intelligent papers on Marx, i.e. ones reflecting some reading of Marx; Lenin was and perhaps still is, wholly other…

      Most Harvard professors would have been unable to comment on such a paper or lapsed into hostility, and would have urged working on something else; Stanley made it a point to say that he had learned something, that it was – should be – publishable….

     During a large gathering during the Harvard strike, I ran into Stanley, who had agreed to serve on the punishments committee – “The Committee on Rights and Responsibilities.”  He had said to the Boston Globe, “some of our best students are in the building” (University Hall).  He was not for cutting people off, permitting no way back (he and I believe Marty Peretz, from the discussion at the later Social Studies meeting, also worked to provide a way back).   Stanley defended Harvard –  stood for a Harvard that could be, rather than as it was. Many who were thrown out – about 200 in total –  did not survive the trauma of the whole period (never finished, or among graduate students, did not go on as scholars).    He looked at me and said, “are we still friends?”  I said, “of course.”  I had many great professors and friends at Harvard (Hoffmann, William Alfred, Barrington Moore, Judith Shklar, Hilary Putnam, Dick Boyd, John Rawls, Michael Walzer among other) – sometimes people I agreed with more than Stanley  – but no one who had a deeper concern for what each student might do on her own and what an institution might be and yet knew, and could be explicit about, why the war was wrong and ironic about the silliness or pretence of Harvard (a condition for surviving the place…).  Also, Stanley later welcomed me back, was happy to write letters for me (some of my professors, whom I later made friends with again, grilled me, saying “how do we know you won’t do it again?”).  Stanley was humane…
     Stanley was the creator of a lively, multidisciplinary, conversational and humane environment at the University.  He made Harvard, to a considerable extent, that way (Wally Gilbert, my brother has helped make the Society of Fellows an engaged, interdisciplinary fostering of scholarship institution for the past 30 years, including Gregory Nagy, Amartya Sen, Bob Nozick and others, in a similar vein).
     Stanley was rightly critical both of the Vietnam war and, more deeply, Iraq. Gulliver Unbound,   though perhaps he should have called it Unhinged, and other short books have identified the frightening madness – the unilateralism, the antipathy toward working with others – of the Bush-Cheney period. He wrote a chilling, brief letter to the Times on the darkness descending on America before the aggression.   He would have liked the Iran agreement, been saddened by the belligerence of blind militarism, Democratic as well as Republican, in American politics.
   In 2003, Stanley agreed to be on an American Political Science Asociation panel about my Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy? It criticizes many version of great power realism and neo-realism internally; shows why Morganthau and others became critical of American adventurism, and how they, to a degree, understood that democrats have common interests from below against the policies of their own states across national borders.  It meant a great deal to me that Stanley agreed to come and comment.  We talked about it; he liked the book, but I would have been very interested to learn more deeply, from a self-conscious and brilliant realist,  what he saw as its strengths and weaknesses.  Sadly, Stanley was ill that summer and could not attend.
    Stanley was also away during the 50th anniversary of Social Studies.  He made a quite beautiful video in which he talked about its founding and the Harvard strike and heading off Gerschenkron, at one time a Menshevik, who wanted the police to beat the students heads in (memories often pervert otherwise sensible people; I took an economic history course and studied Gerschekron’s views on Russian agriculture before the Revolution, once upon a time, but never worked closely with him).  Oddly, the Harvard Strike’s echo so reverberates some 41 years later that some people – not Stanley – found the protest over Peretz’s racism, even in conversations, petitions  and letters – similar (when I got up to talk in the discussion at the first gathering, one of the new heads of social studies told me, only partly jokingly – a campus cop asked him, should I arrest him?).  Stanley did not cure Harvard of its fragility, its unwillingness to deal with honest questions, but he did his best…

   At the lunch, many teaching fellows turned their backs on Peretz and walked out (some 500  had signed a statement against his racism toward Palestinians, blacks and Chicanos…).
     I wondered, however, if Stanley had not come partly because it was distasteful, as a leader of Social Studies, to be in controversy about Marty (Peretz played a decent role at times in Social Studies as senior tutor, but he was, as it turns out, racist and never a scholar…).  And if so, that was sad, since what is good in Social Studies and more largely, in education at Harvard, was nurtured by Stanley for over half a century, and the celebration – it was fun to see so many people who had also graduated from the program – was incomplete without him…
     Stanley was brought to Harvard by McGeorge Bundy with whom he later disagreed at Vietnam.  He went to graduate school with Henry Kissinger, who was, aside from Cheney, the most bizarre war criminal in modern American politics (see Christopher Hitchens, The Trial of Henry Kissinger for his ordering, down to telegrams, of the hit on General Rene Schneider, the Chilean Commander-in-Chief, so that President Allende could be overthrown and tens of thousands “disappeared” – Kissinger was a mass murderer from Vietnam and Camboria to East Timor, and a local commander or Mafioso of hit men…) as well as Brzezinski, author with Carl Friedrich of Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy, an amazingly silly, widely used in beginning courses, and for America, self-serving book – totalitarianisms have 6 characteristics in common, even though Nazi Germany tried to extinguish and enslave the Soviet Union and was defeated there; America, in contrast, is “the open society.” The book is silent on – perhaps even ignorant about – what Nazism learned from American eugenics or genocide toward “redskins,” the blueprint for Eastern Europe…Brzezinski was also National Security Advisor under Carter, and thus not so extensively criminal, though even the very admirable and lovely Jimmy – it is hard to be head of the Empire – praised the murderous Shah as “beloved of his people” on January 1, 1977…(a vehement supporter of the Vietnam war, however, Bzezinski came to speak, Stanley recalled, even of its colonialism, showing that many can come to understand…).
     Growing up in Nazi Europe, Stanley feared power and did not go into government.  He thus presents quite a contrast with these European colleagues.   Instead, he warned of its its harmful effects, sponsored the most broad and serious education, to head off the worst.  He wrote well, subtly and critically, stood up to bad wars, produced no ideology for the American empire. His career contrasts, night and day, with those of the others.  

      “It wasn’t simply the discovery of the way in which public affairs take over private lives, in which individual fates are blown around like leaves in a storm once history strikes, that had marked me forever.  It was also a purely personal sense of solidarity with the other victims of history and Hitler with whom I shared this primal experience of free fall.”
     And even more profoundly,

      “I study power so as to understand the enemy, not so as better to be able to exert it.”

      Stanley was also graduate students and deep friends with the wonderful Judith Shklar who made a formidable and lasting impression on everyone who met her.  In addition to her brilliance as a political theorist, he also pointed to the fact that the Harvard Government faculty, segregating women, made them, at one time, enter different doors…

       Stanley worked diligently and creatively to make Harvard the place that it might be.  He touched many of us.  As in a way, a realist, shaped by the experiences and fears of World War II and looking from below, he did not foresee the transformation – the rooting out of colonialism, racism – that still must come, that still, to this moment, shackles humanity.  That the Confederate flags just came down, that Black Lives Matter is central, that in India, they have still not substituted at a park in Delhi, at British request, a statue of Gandhi for the removed Lord Montbatten….But Stanley gave a force and eloquence to the study of international politics, to assessing the American Gulliver, to speaking against reactionary wars, and to decency which is rare (among his colleagues/contemporaries, only Hans Morganthau was stronger politically). He admirably did not put himself forward, but helped make education and the world a better place.  Go well, Stanley…

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