Aristide Zolberg was a leader in our shared long standing intellectual home, The New School for Social Research, as he was a path breaking, broad ranging political scientist. He also was, crucially, a good man. In this post, Kenneth Prewitt, Michael Cohen and Riva Kastoryano join me in remembering a great scholar and gentleman. -Jeff
Ary started his career as an Africanist, whose work on the Ivory Coast stands as a classic in the field. He became famous as a stellar essayist, whose sharp creative insights could illuminate in elegant strokes great puzzles of the human condition, including perhaps most significantly his “Moments of Madness,” a deeply learned piece reflecting on the telling question he posed: “If politics is the art of the possible, what are we to make of the moments when human beings in modern societies believe that ‘all is possible’?” And then there is his great achievement: A Nation by Design, his magnum opus. It is both a crucial account of an under examined part of the American story, while it is rich with comparative insights, as Riva Kastoryano describes in her reflections. It is a classic for reasons that Ken Prewitt underscores.
Ary was a disciplined scholar, as Michael Cohen highlights, who crossed disciplines freely, a tough – minded empiricist with great imagination. He was also a man who experienced a great deal, both the good and the bad life offered in his times. A Holocaust survivor, whose memoirs of his childhood await publication, he was married to the great sociologist of memory and art, Vera Zolberg. (For my appreciation of my intellectual relationship with Vera click here)
Ary and Vera, co-conspirators, together for sixty years, they were a beautiful team, and as a team they contributed to family (their children Erica and Danny and many more), friends, colleagues and students, and the world of arts and sciences broadly. “The Zolbergs” hosted innumerable New School events, as well as informal dinners, . . .