Professor of Sociology Irving Louis Horowitz, who served as chair of the department of sociology for three years, passed away on Feb. 26.
In 1960, Horowitz came to Hobart and William Smith Colleges as chair of the department of sociology, a position he held until 1963, when he left the Colleges to go to Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.
The author of nearly 50 books, Horowitz was instrumental in the creation and development of Transaction Publishers, for which he served as chair of the board and editorial director, and on the board of The Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy, an independent foundation for the support and advancement of social science research.
The New York Times recently published his obituary, recognizing the many contributions that Horowitz had made to both his discipline and society, noting that he had “devised a quantitative index for measuring a nation’s quality of life, weighing factors like arbitrary killings and imprisonments against the extent of civil liberties. He helped popularize the term ‘third world’ for poorer nations not aligned with the Soviet Union or the United States.”
The full article follows.
The New York Times
Irving Louis Horowitz, Sociologist and Ideological Critic, Dies at 82
Douglas Martin • March 26, 2012
Irving Louis Horowitz, an eminent sociologist and prolific author who started a leading journal in his field but who came to fear that his discipline risked being captured by left-wing ideologues, died on Wednesday in Princeton, N.J. He was 82.
The cause was complications of heart surgery, his wife, Mary Curtis Horowitz, said.
Professor Horowitz, who last taught at Rutgers University, wrote about genocide, political theory and Cuban Communism, among other topics. He devised a quantitative index for measuring a nation’s quality of life, weighing factors like arbitrary killings and imprisonments against the extent of civil liberties. He helped popularize the term “third world” for poorer nations not aligned with the Soviet Union or the United States.
Though many considered him a neoconservative, he professed no political allegiance. In a 2007 article, he argued that Fidel Castro, the Communist Cuban leader, and Francisco Franco, the conservative leader of Spain, were equivalent tyrants.
In 1962, Professor Horowitz founded the journal Trans-Action: Social Science and Modern Society, which strove to bring to sociology, economics, political science and the other social sciences the same explanatory rigor that Scientific American applied to the hard sciences. Trans-Action’s name was changed to Society in 1972 as Transaction Publishers grew into a respected publisher of social science books and journals. The company sold Society and other journals to Springer, a German publishing firm, in 2007.
In his later years, Professor Horowitz worried that “left-wing fascists” and “professional savages” were subverting objective, empirical approaches to the social sciences, as he wrote in his book “The Decomposition of Sociology” (1993). In a journal article, he denounced leftist advocacy, writing, “You do not get good science by being politically correct.”
But George Steinmetz, a sociologist at the University of Michigan, challenged Professor Horowitz’s solution of relying on empirical, nonideological studies modeled on the hard sciences. In a 2005 article in The Michigan Quarterly Review titled “The Cultural Contradictions of Irving Louis Horowitz,” he maintained that “historical, cultural and geographic” context remained critical. Professor Horowitz was a leading expert on C. Wright Mills, who studied social stratification in the United States, most famously in “The Power Elite” (1956). He edited four volumes of Mills’s essays and a book of essays about him; edited and published Mills’s doctoral dissertation as a book; and wrote “C. Wright Mills: An American Utopian” (1983), which the historian Jackson Lears praised in The Journal of American History as “a balanced, judicious intellectual biography.”
But others complained that Professor Horowitz’s earlier view of Mills as a “true reformer” had darkened. In the biography he called Mills “a fanatic” and castigated his affiliation with New Left thinkers who had emerged during the Vietnam War. Mills’s widow, Kathryn Mills, wrote in a letter to The New York Times that her husband had met Professor Horowitz only twice; she complained that his book had 50 errors of biographical fact “in addition to misinterpretations and questionable judgments.”
Professor Horowitz only escalated his criticism, calling Mills “a bigot.” In “A Postscript to a Sociological Utopian” (1989), he wrote, “In C. Wright Mills I was dealing with a sadly flawed individual, a human being who had biased attitudes on many issues, including minorities, Jews, women, and especially blacks.”
Irving Louis Horowitz was born in New York City – on Wards Island in the East River – on Sept. 25, 1929. He grew up in Harlem. In an autobiography, “Daydreams and Nightmares” (1990), he wrote that he was born with a cleft palate and a cleft lip and had 24 painful operations in his first 13 years. A dentist was later able to repair the hole in the top of his mouth, his wife said. The family was part of a dwindling Jewish minority in Harlem.
“It was a very heavily social environment,” Professor Horowitz said in an interview with The Times in 1988. “To survive, you had to know the distinction between black and white, rich and poor, Jew and gentile, religious and nonreligious, political and nonpolitical.”
He attended City College of New York and drove a cab to help with living expenses. He earned a master’s degree from Columbia and a Ph.D. from the University of Buenos Aires. “It was the end of the Perón era,” he said, “and I was told I could be helpful in reactivating the sociology program.”
He taught at many universities around the world and was chairman of the sociology departments at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Washington University and Rutgers. In 1979, he was awarded an endowed chair at Rutgers and chose to name it after Hannah Arendt, the political theorist. He retired from teaching in 1992 and seven years later established, with his wife, the Irving Louis Horowitz Foundation to aid social science scholars. His final book, “Hannah Arendt: Radical Conservative,” was published this month.
Professor Horowitz’s marriages to Ruth Narowlansky and Danielle Salti ended in divorce. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his sons, Carl and David.
Professor Horowitz was nothing if not ambitious. Three weeks after Mills died in 1962, he wrote Mills’s wife offering his services for “anything from flat tires to zebra hunting to transporting widows across state lines.” He soon hauled away cartons of Mills’s papers.