IN MEMORIAM: DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR EMERITUS STANLEY ARONOWITZ, INFLUENTIAL LABOR ADVOCATE AND SCHOLAR
The Graduate Center community is deeply saddened by the passing of Distinguished Professor Emeritus Stanley Aronowitz, a scholar of labor and social movements and a civil and labor rights activist, who died on August 16, 2021, at age 88.
Aronowitz joined the Graduate Center faculty in 1983 and was named a distinguished professor in 1998. He taught in the Sociology and Urban Education doctoral programs, the Liberal Studies master’s program, and the Film Studies certificate program.
Professor Wendy Luttrell, executive officer of the Urban Education Ph.D. program, called him one of the faculty founders of the Urban Education program. “His spirited critique and skepticism of received wisdom and institutional knowledge (as he wrote in his classic book The Knowledge Factory: Dismantling the Corporate University and Creating the True Higher Learning) helped to shape the mission and values of the UE program,” she wrote in a tribute. She recalled that he planned and directed the first experimental New York City high school in the post-World War II era.
A prolific and influential scholar of labor, education, American politics, and Marxism, Aronowitz wrote, co-wrote, and edited 25 books. His works include The Death and Life of American Labor: Toward a New Worker's Movement (2014); Taking It Big: C. Wright Mills and the Making of Political Intellectuals (2012); Against Schooling: For an Education that Matters (2008); Left Turn: Forging a New Political Future (2006); Just Around Corner (2005); How Class Works (2003); The Last Good Job in America (2001); The Knowledge Factory (2000); The Jobless Future (1994, with William DiFazio); and False Promises: The Shaping of American Working Class Consciousness (1973, 1992).
He was the founding editor of the journal Social Text and co-founded Situations: Project of the Radical Imagination. He wrote more than 200 articles and reviews for publications such as Harvard Educational Review, Social Policy, The Nation, and The American Journal of Sociology.
A New York native, raised in the Bronx, he worked as a labor organizer in the late 1950s and 1960s and was active in the civil rights movement. He was appointed by Bayard Rustin to rally union support for the 1963 March on Washington.
Prior to coming to the Graduate Center he taught at the University of California, Irvine and Staten Island Community College (now The College of Staten Island). He held visiting professor or scholar appointments at University of Wisconsin–Madison, the University of Paris VIII, Lund University (Sweden), and Columbia University.
Despite his many academic posts, Luttrell recalled Aronowitz saying, “I am in the academy, but not of the academy”.
An obituary in The Jerusalem Post described Aronowitz as a mentor to hundreds of young left-wing thinkers and activists. Graduate Center alumnus Jamie McCallum (Ph.D. ’11, Sociology), now an associate professor of sociology at Middlebury College, wrote in a tribute in Jacobin magazine, “My time studying with him was a high point of my intellectual life.”
McCallum recalled, “As a professor, he vacillated between close readings of the texts and of no readings of them at all. His classes sparkled either way. A good teacher imparts knowledge; a great one inspires you to ask better questions.”
Brooklyn College Professor Nancy Romer worked with Aronowitz on behalf of the Professional Staff Congress, or PSC CUNY, the union that represents CUNY faculty and staff, between 1996 and 2006.
She wrote in a tribute, “His deep belief in the potential of humans to take care of each other, to love each other, and to wield power for the many against the control of the few powered him through countless movements and meetings and books … Stanley Aronowitz will be remembered by so many people in so many ways. To me he was a comrade and an organizer. He was anti-racist and feminist to his core and deeply believed in building a better world.”
A Graduate Center event to honor and celebrate his life and work will be announced at a later date.