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Worldly Philosopher

Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 768
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    Worldly Philosopher
    Book Description:

    Worldly Philosopherchronicles the times and writings of Albert O. Hirschman, one of the twentieth century's most original and provocative thinkers. In this gripping biography, Jeremy Adelman tells the story of a man shaped by modern horrors and hopes, a worldly intellectual who fought for and wrote in defense of the values of tolerance and change.

    Born in Berlin in 1915, Hirschman grew up amid the promise and turmoil of the Weimar era, but fled Germany when the Nazis seized power in 1933. Amid hardship and personal tragedy, he volunteered to fight against the fascists in Spain and helped many of Europe's leading artists and intellectuals escape to America after France fell to Hitler. His intellectual career led him to Paris, London, and Trieste, and to academic appointments at Columbia, Harvard, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He was an influential adviser to governments in the United States, Latin America, and Europe, as well as major foundations and the World Bank. Along the way, he wrote some of the most innovative and important books in economics, the social sciences, and the history of ideas.

    Throughout, he remained committed to his belief that reform is possible, even in the darkest of times.

    This is the first major account of Hirschman's remarkable life, and a tale of the twentieth century as seen through the story of an astute and passionate observer. Adelman's riveting narrative traces how Hirschman's personal experiences shaped his unique intellectual perspective, and how his enduring legacy is one of hope, open-mindedness, and practical idealism.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4684-9
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  4. INTRODUCTION Mots Justes
    (pp. 1-15)

    In early April 1933, a spasm of anti-Semitic violence rocked Berlin. Thugs beat Jews in the streets. Shops owned by Jews were looted and burned. Hitler slapped restrictions on Jewish doctors, merchants, and lawyers. For the Hirschmann family, well-to-do assimilated Jewish Berliners, the distress paled beside a more immediate shock. The family huddled in a cemetery as a coffin bearing Carl Hirschmann was lowered into his grave. His wife wept. His children did too. Except one. Otto Albert, known to us by a different name, Albert O. Hirschman, concealed his grief as the family bid their farewells to a father...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Garden
    (pp. 16-51)

    On August 1, 1914, the German capital erupted in festivities. A glorious war had broken out. The speechifying, recruiting parades, and posters and banners urging the troops to swift victory all celebrated a conflict that promised to end in six weeks. The ensuing armistice would restore a gentlemanly world governed by European monarchs, nobles, and capitalists. This was a welcome war, not a dreaded one. One young doctor applauded along with his fellow subjects. His name: Carl Hirschmann. He was a patriot; he loved Beethoven, Goethe, and the values of the German Enlightenment, as well as the German nation. In...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Berlin Is Burning
    (pp. 52-84)

    A photo of Otto Albert at nine years old cuts a profile of a thin, delicate figure with soft, sensitive, brown eyes, a full, but not wide, mouth, dressed the part of the child of Berlin’s professional elite. To these features would be added, as he matured, an unruly shock of hair and an impish, playful, grin; his eyes would evolve into knowing, ever-attuned instruments; what his father’s hands were for the surgeon, OA’s eyes were for the observer of the world. He was by no means a formed being, but some basic traits were there. The son of an...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Proving Hamlet Wrong
    (pp. 85-118)

    Days after Hitler became German chancellor, Hirschmann’s former French tutor wrote to him from Paris: “In case you desire to come to France, please do not hesitate to stay with us.” As his train pulled into Paris, it was to his demoiselle’s address that he headed, hoping to get his bearings. To his surprise, his hosts were not French-speakers at home. They, too, were émigrés—from Salonika, Ladino-speaking Jews and veterans of Balkan intolerance—one more family in a city that was becoming the world’s refuge from European tyrants. Hirschmann’s shelter among Ladinos was the first step into the world...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Hour of Courage
    (pp. 119-152)

    Over the course of the next three years, Hirschmann shuffled between four countries, enlisted to fight in a civil war, joined an underground resistance, and got a doctoral degree. The languages changed—from French to English to Spanish to Italian and back to French—but his commitment to fight fascism remained the same, no matter the language or land. Uprooted from country yet loyal to cause, Hirschmann found a way to make this an intellectually fertile period, especially after the disappointments of HEC. It was in these years that Hirschmann got his first exposure to real economics at the London...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Crossings
    (pp. 153-186)

    The Paris to which Otto Albert Hirschmann returned in the late summer of 1938 was not the same as the one that had greeted him in April 1933. The Depression clung to the city, the Popular Front had crumbled, the signs of war were all over, and the flood of refugees fed growing nativism. Paris was no longer the open city it had been five years earlier. Nor was Hirschmann the same man. He had a doctorate, had refined some tools in the social sciences, and came equipped to practice his craft of economic intelligence. Indeed, his July publication on...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Of Guns and Butter
    (pp. 187-218)

    SSExcaliburwas scheduled to dock at Jersey City on the evening of Monday, January 13, 1941. Storms had battered the East Coast and delayed the vessel’s last leg from Bermuda. When it entered the mouth of the Hudson River on Tuesday morning, it was a frigid 13 degrees (F); the sky was a slate gray and was about to release its snow. The refugees shivered as they filed through the immigration offices at Elizabeth, New Jersey, and then scattered to their destinations. By the time Otto Albert Hirschmann handed over his documents—his Lithuanian passport and American visa—he...

  11. CHAPTER 7 The Last Battle
    (pp. 219-251)

    Though it was less than a year after his escape from Europe, the bombing of Pearl Harbor hurriedNational Power. There was competition now for Hirschman’s attention, another fork in the road. One way pointed the way to avita contemplativa, a road he yearned for after his itinerant and militant years in Europe. Another pointed the way to avita activadedicated to the struggle against fascism, a cause he’d rallied to like a reflex since 1931. Here was a new opportunity to enlist. He did so, almost immediately—less than two months after Pearl Harbor. A serious bout...

  12. CHAPTER 8 The Anthill
    (pp. 252-283)

    For many social scientists picking up the pieces of their scattered lives after years of war, peace meant the return to professional life. American universities, swelling with returning GI students, reclaimed their academics from Washington. Not a few of the veterans of the Office of Strategic Services became leading scholars of European affairs. But for Hirschman, the pathway was paved with anything but clarity. There was also a fledgling family to rebuild. Around Christmas 1945, Sarah received word from Albert. Anxious days, and then weeks, passed before she got the news that he had arrived in Washington and was waiting...

  13. CHAPTER 9 The Biography of a File
    (pp. 284-294)

    From 1943 to 1966, a shadow trailed Albert Hirschman. But unlike most shadows, this was one he never saw. Hirschman did suspect that some invisible force was at work; some things in his life were too unfathomable. He could not understand why the OSS did not make more of his intelligence skills and preferred to deploy him as a mere interpreter; he tended to explain this away as the bureaucratic ineptitude of armies or large organizations, in part because he had less and less affection for them. But there were times when his career ran into inexplicable roadblocks. The Office...

  14. CHAPTER 10 Colombia Years
    (pp. 295-324)

    In 1952, Colombia was in the throes of a terrible conflict. Its capital was emerging from the worst urban unrest and destruction in the hemisphere’s history. Marauding gangs and sharpshooters no longer patrolled the streets, but charred buildings and empty lots remained as silent echoes of a spasm of violence that had since spread to Andean valleys and plateaus where guerrillas, militiamen, and the army fought for control. This was an improbable setting for a marginalized economist to make a big difference or a place for his family to make a new life. But, if nothing else, Hirschman’s displacement testified...

  15. CHAPTER 11 Following My Truth
    (pp. 325-352)

    Shortly after moving to Bogotá, Albert and Sarah set up a shortwave radio to keep up with world news. They huddled over the crackling set to listen to Adlai Stevenson’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in August 1952, where the candidate gave a memorable oration about patriotism based on tolerance and humility. It was through this radio that they followed the ensuing election—one of the most appalling in modern American history. From far away, Albert and Sarah flinched when the vice-presidential candidate, Richard Nixon, led the anti-Stevenson crusade, smearing the Democrat with dirt about Communist influences. Senator...

  16. CHAPTER 12 The Empirical Lantern
    (pp. 353-381)

    AfterStrategy, then what? The book had clear, entwined objectives—to recast the debate about Third World development and fulfill a personal dream of being an intellectual. But basic issues about life remained in the air. Two years away from Bogotá, where was the family to live? Tasting the beginnings of success in the United States as an intellectual, Hirschman now wanted to stay. But he was without a job, hustling for work and contracts. By the summer of 1958, he was on month-to-month earnings with two teenage daughters. Hirschman, undimmed in his determination, saw the problem coming. “Nothing is...

  17. CHAPTER 13 Sing the Epic
    (pp. 382-414)

    A flurry of books and breaking into the acme of the American academy did not leave Hirschman with an urge to settle down. If anything, he was more restless than ever.Journeys toward Progresswas barely out in early 1963 when he issued feelers to the Ford Foundation offering his consulting services. Why? “The cause is good,” F. Champion Ward wrote apologetically, “but, frankly, we don’t quite see why what is essentially a consultant relationship need be independently financed when the results are to be primarily of value to the committee.”¹

    Two things were going on. First, Hirschman’s itchiness was...

  18. CHAPTER 14 The God Who Helped
    (pp. 415-454)

    The late 1960s wrenched major American cities and university campuses with unrest; in Mexico City, Prague, and Paris, they became battlefields that shook regimes. Coups d’états and civil war spread across what were once upliftingly called “new nations.” The promises of the development decade seemed increasingly empty. How could one defend reform in this context? This was a difficult question, faced not only with an establishment looking for manageable answers, but also with radical sources of dissent coming back to life with an energy unseen since the 1930s. In late 1969, after a trip to Latin America, Hirschman penned a...

  19. CHAPTER 15 The Cold Monster
    (pp. 455-488)

    No sooner didBias for Hoperoll off the printing press than Hirschman packed his bags. His destination: Latin America. By now, he was approaching intellectual celebrity. Unable to rival Jean-Paul Sartre, whose visits to Cuba and Brazil some years earlier were those of a star, he had no interest in the French philosopher’s predilection to preach; fame never weaned Hirschman from his ironic disdain for the pontificating foreign expert, “the visiting economist syndrome.” Still, the eagerness of major intellectuals, ministers, and reporters to meet him was a reminder that he was not immune from the affliction. When in Buenos...

  20. CHAPTER 16 Man, the Stage
    (pp. 489-524)

    Hirschman’s life can be recounted as a biography of a reader, recounting stages in the development of a subject’s library, from childhood influences to the dog-eared volumes that shaped an intellectual imagination to the books he parried with his own. Such a narrative would arc across familiar categories of an intellectual biography, from formation to contribution, from absorption to creation.

    As with any effort to give Hirschman’s life history a shape, the story is invariably more complex and not always forward-moving. For one, the books that influenced him as a young man did not retire to the bookshelf. His dog-eared...

  21. CHAPTER 17 Body Parts
    (pp. 525-530)

    If Albert Hirschman were a novelist, the human body might have figured prominently in his writings. Bodies fascinated him, not least his own. His eye for small details—human feelings expressed by a flinch or a discreetly placed hand—is a hallmark of the literary imagination he brought to bear on his social science, but it is only rarely visible through the lacquer of economic analysis and political theory. There was also a fundamental comfort with and confidence in his bodily self, a disposition that was not just coincident with the grace of his prose.

    We know the human body...

  22. CHAPTER 18 Disappointment
    (pp. 531-566)

    No sooner didThe Passions and the Interestscome out in 1977 than Albert and Sarah went to Russia for ten days. These were the waning hours of détente. Hedrick Smith’s prize-winningThe Russiansdominated theNew York Timesbest-seller lists, but East-West relations were turning frosty over human rights. The Hirschmans’ trip was an opportunity for Sarah to reconnect with her native tongue and share the pleasures of seeing Russian plays in Russian with Albert. Sarah promised to translate. Their white-night meanderings—through dilapidated churches, days in the Hermitage Museum, fancy (and overpriced) meals, discrete nudging of each other...

  23. CHAPTER 19 Social Science for Our Grandchildren
    (pp. 567-598)

    In the summer of 1979, a trio of Berkeley professors decided to organize a conference called “Morality as a Problem in the Social Sciences.” Aiming at the functions and malfunctions of a “value neutral” social science, it was dominated by heavy-weight philosophers such as Jürgen Habermas, Richard Rorty, and Charles Taylor. There were other notables, such as Norma Haan and Michel de Certeau. Bellah asked Hirschman to come; Hirschman accepted, on condition that Mike McPherson be included. He felt it was important to have economists in the midst. McPherson welcomed the opportunity as an honor—and then trepidation: when the...

  24. CHAPTER 20 Reliving the Present
    (pp. 599-638)

    The academic year 1984–85 was Hirschman’s last as an “active” member of the Institute for Advanced Study. He was turning seventy in April and was due to retire from his formal commitments. “Rights without duties: the perfect academic life, surely,” joked Quentin Skinner in congratulations, without adding that in Princeton’s little republic the ratio was hardly tilted toward the denominator. Retirement coincided with international fame. Indeed, it would be hard to imagine a social scientist enjoying more respect in so many corners of the world than Hirschman. Government ministers, presidents of foundations, civic leaders, and scholars from Buenos Aires...

  25. CONCLUSION Marc Chagall’s Kiss
    (pp. 639-652)

    On April 7, 1995, the director of the Institute for Advanced Study, Phillip Griffiths, issued invitations to Hirschman’s friends and colleagues to celebrate his eightieth birthday. There would be, as befit an eminent scholar, panels and discussion. Amartya Sen would lead a seminar on development and poverty. Ruth Cardoso, Michael McPherson, Paul Romer, Thomas Robinson, Emma Rothschild, José Serra, and James Wolfensohn planned comments. Seventy-eight people flew in from around the world. Some who could not, such as Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Wolf Lepenies, sent letters. Later that evening, over rack of lamb, gratin Dauphinois, and haricots verts, there were...

  26. AFTERWORD Sailing into the Wind
    (pp. 653-658)

    Enough years have passed for Hirschman’s life to enter the domain of memory, for his work and ideas to have lives of their own. Perhaps anticipating this—he was well aware that an occupational habit of intellectuals is to dream of everlasting life through one’s ideas—he took great interest in reading about the uses (and sometimes the abuses) to which people put his concepts, especially if they were artful. He took special pleasure, for instance, when his friend, Arcadio Díaz Quiñones, adapted the exit, voice, and loyalty trilogy to explore how Cuban refugees cast their fates on makeshift rafts...

  27. NOTES
    (pp. 659-698)
    (pp. 699-708)
  29. INDEX
    (pp. 709-742)