Stanley Aronowitz, Labor scholar and activist, dies at 88

Stanley Aronowitz, a prolific blue-collar organizer, university professor and author who argued that electoral politics had failed American workers and that unions needed to adopt activist strategies to pursue a broad social agenda, died Monday at his home of Manhattan. He was 88 years old.

The cause was complications from a stroke, her daughter Kim O’Connell said.

Professor Aronowitz, a social theorist who taught at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York, called himself a “working class intellectual.” He argued that direct action was a more powerful weapon for workers than collective bargaining or conventional politics.

“We have relied on politicians to solve problems for so long,” he told the magazine. In these times in 2014, “that union membership no longer really rests on its own power”.

“Direct action, political education and cultural policy are the right ways to go,” he said in an interview with Brooklyn train, a cultural magazine, in 2012.

As a disciple of sociologist C. Wright Mills and philosopher Herbert Marcuse, Professor Aronowitz believed that work had lost the class consciousness that once placed it at the forefront of great movements for social change.

He argued that unions needed to broaden their agenda to include issues such as education and affordable housing, and show power through tangible tactics such as one-day strikes and boycotts, rather than remain “supplicants of the Democratic Party”.

“Capitalism is not a rational system,” Professor Aronowitz said in an interview with the New York Times in 1995. “The only way it is turned around is through mass struggle.

Professor Aronowitz predicted the shrinking of the middle class and the massive replacement of manual and intellectual labor with technology in more than two dozen books he wrote, helped write or edited, including “False Promises: The Shaping of American Working Class Consciousness “(1973),” The Jobless Future: Sci-Tech and the Dogma of Work “(1995),” How Class Works “(2003),” Left Turn: Forging a New Political Future “(2006) , “Against Schooling: For an Education That Matters” (2008) and “Taking It Big: C. Wright Mills and the Making of Political Intellectuals” (2012).

“He shattered the work studies paradigm,” said Michael Pelias, a Brooklyn College and Long Island University professor and former colleague, by phone.

Professor Aronowitz helped draft the New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Act in 1961 while working for the state’s Industrial Union Council; recruited workers and organized boycotts for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America; and enlisted workforce support for the Nonviolent Student Coordinating Committee and other civil rights groups in the 1960s.

In 2002, he ran for governor of New York on the Green Party ticket, campaigning on a platform that combined “opposition to corporate power and plutocratic government with a commitment to pro-democracy. sustainability, racial equality, feminism, gay liberation and individual freedom ”. It received 41,797 votes, just under 1% of 4.6 million votes.

Professor Aronowitz’s path to academia was unorthodox; he was a college dropout who had been licensed as a metallurgist.

Stanley B. Aronowitz (the initial of the middle name apparently meant nothing) was born on January 6, 1933 in the Bronx to Nat Aronowitz, engineer, and Frances (Helfand) Aronowitz, accountant.

After graduating from the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, he enrolled in Brooklyn College, but was suspended in the fall of 1950 for participating in a sit-in to protest the newspaper’s suspension. of the campus, which had protested against the dean’s refusal to sanction a left-wing student group. Rather than return to college, he transplanted to New Jersey, where he became a metallurgist. He also worked for several unions and contributed to the Port Huron Declaration, the Students’ Manifesto for a Democratic Society, in 1962.

In 1965 he taught at the Free University of New York, a sanctuary for academics dismissed for their leftist views. He received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the New School in 1968, at the age of 35, and a doctorate from the Union Graduate School Experimental (now Union Institute and University) in 1975. Between his degrees, he was associate director of Mobilization for Youth. .

Professor Aronowitz taught at Staten Island Community College (now the College of Staten Island) from 1972 to 1976 and was Associate Professor of Social Sciences and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine from 1977 to 1982. He has retired from New York City University in 2017.

As founding editor of Duke University magazine Social text and a force behind the creation of the Center for Cultural Studies (today the Center for Culture, Technology and Labor Studies) at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, Professor Aronowitz lamented what he called the decline of the public intellectual.

Complaining that “hardly anyone in the social sciences deals with the question of power,” he said: “What we don’t have is an organized left. If you don’t have an organized left, you don’t have an organized political intellectual public.

His marriage to Jane O’Connell ended in divorce in 1962. In addition to his daughter Kim O’Connell, he is survived by his son, Michael O’Connell, also of this marriage; his daughter Nona Willis-Aronowitz, writer, from her marriage to writer and cultural critic Ellen Willis, who died in 2006; two other children, Hampton and Alice Finer; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

“Before Occupy Wall Street, before Bernie Sanders, before the Squad,” Ms. Willis-Aronowitz said by email, “there was Stanley Aronowitz, singing“ Solidarity Forever ”to me like a lullaby, running for Governor of New York under the slogan “Tax and Spend”, at a time when it seemed like everyone on the left was trying to moderate each other. “

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