A Tribute to Irving Louis Horowitz by Vladimir Tismaneanu
In March 2012 passed away a great social thinker, a free and courageous spirit, a true humanist intellectual, Professor Irving Louis Horowitz. Born in New York, in Harlem, in 1928, Horowitz went through and wrote about the great moments that have marked the ideological and political twentieth century: Rooseveltian liberalism, shipwrecked European democracies, the shock of the Holocaust, the Cold War and revelations about communist totalitarianism, decolonization, militaristic regimes in Latin America, civil rights movement, nihilistic radicalism of the New Left, illusions and delusions about the Cuban revolution, the crisis of western sociology, the collapse of Marxism, the dilemmas of American liberalism after the Vietnam War, the welfare state and the illusions of social paternalism, the genesis of the new conservatism. He started in journalism sociology in 1951. He was one of those who have coined the term "Third World." His studies of genocide, Holocaust, the Gulag, are exemplary in their ethical intensity and conceptual depth. He contributed, along Weberian lines, to the reconstruction of political sociology. He raised his voice, whenever necessary, against moral atrophy and axiological anarchy. Those who today are trying to revive the myths of the radical left would do well to read the biography of Wright Mills written by Irving Louis Horowitz, who was one of the closest collaborators of the author of the "Sociological Imagination". Nobody was surprised with such acuity and size Horowitz utopian elements of wishful thinking , even fanatical, the work of Mills. It is therefore not surprising that many devotees of this father of radical sociology did not forgive Horowitz, accusing him of apostasy, even "repudiation." In turn, he responded bluntly: You do not get good science by being politically correct.
He believed in liberal-bourgeois values, which he defended with incandescent passion and impressive erudition. His book "Behemoth: Main Currents in the History and Theory of Political Sociology" (1999) is one of the most precious treasures of contemporary social thought. I consider it must-reading for anyone who wishes to understand the grand tradition of the human sciences, the oscillations between anarchy and Behemoth (Montesquieu), the liberal compromise with state power (Tocqueville), utopianism as scientific sociology (Marx), social power without state authority (Durkheim), state power without social order (Sorel), Arendtian perspective on totalitarian doctrines of the "perfect society", legitimizing the democratic state (Weber). For those interested in critical theory of the Frankfurt School, I recommend the chapter "The Unhappy Alliance of Democracy and Dictatorship," a lucid, superbly informed, not in the least apologetic (hence all the more credible) exploration of the theoretical contributions of Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin and Franz Neumann. The motto is from the book by Charles Frankel, "The Case for Modern Man" (Harper & Row, 1955): "The Nazis Showed us the depths of human beings Which is capable, the Communists have Shown us the depths while manipulating the Same social vision. The faith in science, the Belief in progress, the ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, have all been paraded before us in the Murderers 'masquerade.'
He taught over the years at prestigious universities: Washington University in St. Louis, University of Buenos Aires (a former colleague and friend of the philosopher of science Mario Bunge), London School of Economics (was close to Leonard Schapiro, Ernest Gellner and Michael Oakeshott), was a professor for three decades at Rutgers University. My debt to him is enormous. His books about communism in Cuba are essential for those who want to understand Castro’s totalitarianism. He invited me to collaborate in this scientific and moral enterprise, to be updated every two or three years. I wrote about "Castro-Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy Guevarism and Latin America." He was tireless in protest against the dictatorship in Cuba. Horowitz was the first to reveal the Stalinization of the Cuban Revolution. While others were singing the praises of Communists in Havana, Horowitz published writings by its dissidents. He was a friend of Carlos Franqui and Carlos Alberto Montaner. Perhaps the day will come when a street in Havana will be named after him. And alongside Daniel Mahoney, Horowitz wrote of Solzhenitsyn.
I would compare the impact of Daniel Bell in the humanities, but also on public discourse - not to mention his great work on social epistemology, the classic book about Georges Sorel, and the already mentioned critical biography of C. Wright Mills. His latest book is Hannah Arendt: Radical Conservative (Transaction Publishers, 2012). He bore the title of Hannah Arendt Distinguished Professor at Rutgers. The publishing house founded and led by Professor Horowitz, Transaction, has published or republished fundamental books such as: Jacob L. Talmon, Myth of the Nation, Vision of the Revolution, Raymond Aron, The Opium of the Intellectuals, Carlos Rangel, Third World Ideology, Pieter Viereck, Metapolitics, Robert C. Tucker, Philosophy and Myth in Karl Marx, works by Reinhard Bendix, Leo Lowenthal, Melvin Lasky, Leo Labedz, Robert Conquest, Robert Nisbet, Paul Hollander, etc. There appeared, in 2006, the late political scientist Michael S. Radu, Dilemmas of Democracy and Dictatorship: Place, Time, and Ideology in Global Perspective, a book that should be translated into Romanian. Few works elucidate so clearly exactly what is in fact a dictatorship.
Irving was a mountain of energy, an extremely invigorating personality, loved film, basketball, literature, but above all, truth. Though, to be sure, the themes he was dealing with inspired mainly pessimism. He had become, over time, philosophically speaking, a moderate conservative. Though he had much in common with neo-conservatives, was friends with many, he did not have a self-defined ideology. When I wrote an article entitled "In Praise of Eclecticism" I thought of him, of Kolakowski, Daniel Bell, of Daniel Moynihan. Horowitz knew that radicalism leads to excesses, genocidal cleansing, blood feuds and reckless actions. Among his astonishing works, one book is particularly dear to my heart: Persuasions and Prejudices: An Informal Compendium of Modern Social Science. 1953-1988, published by Transaction in 1989. The last part of the book is entitled "The Ethical Foundations of Political Life." It includes essays by Hannah Arendt, Raymond Aron, Daniel Bell, Bertrand de Jouvenel, Seymour Martin Lipset, Robert Lynd, Georges Sorel, Jacob Talmon (one of Horowitz’s most admired thinkers) and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (excerpts from The Gulag Archipelago). You had to have Irving Horowitz’s intellectual courage to include Solzhenitsyn in such anthology of modern social sciences.
I remember with pained emotion evenings spent in the 80s with him talking about C. Wright Mills, Hannah Arendt, Franz Borken, Paul Lazarsfeld, Theodor W. Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Daniel Bell, Harold Lasswell, Alvin W. Gouldner. No one knew better than Horowitz the history of modern sociology, from Durkheim, Pareto, Scheler and Simmel to Sorokin, Parsons, Mills, Aaron and Merton. I remember his opinions, always clear and uninhibited. He published essays that often went against the tide. When an influential trade magazine decided not to publish (for ideological reasons) my review (initially accepted) of Miklos Haraszti's book, The Velvet Prison, he immediately published it in Society. So was Irving: heterodox, audacious, honest and unpredictable. It is what attracted the early '90s, the student Catalin Avramescu to work with professor Horowitz at Rutgers. Printed here with his permission is this moving confession: "I remember how I discovered, in 1991, an edition of the Radicalism and the Revolt Against Reason, which guided what was at the time my doctoral thesis. I am so sorry to hear this news. Few were the sources, in those years, that managed to reach us and could open our eyes a little to what true history of ideas really was. I did not know him, but I imagine him as a man with a mission Beruf in Weber's sense. "
Yes, I add too, Horowitz's mission was designed and undertaken in a Weberian manner. "Truth is the vital thing" were the last words of Max Weber on his deathbed.