It is with sadness that I learned of the death yesterday of Aristide Zolberg, emeritus professor of political science at the New School. He was my professor and mentor during my first two years of graduate school at the University of Chicago, until he took up his appointment at the New School in 1983. He was a brilliant social scientist and whose presence at Chicago was one of the reasons I chose to pursue my graduate studies there. I was greatly influenced by his macrohistorical approach to comparative politics and shared his main academic interests, in European—and particularly French—politics and history, in ethnicity and ethnic conflict, and in the field of immigration (history, sociology, politics, and policy) and international migration, of which he was one of the leading social science authorities from the 1970s on. We stayed in touch over the years and saw one another off and on, in New York and during his many visits to Paris. We were very much on the same wavelength intellectually and politically. And I liked him personally. Here’s the announcement of his passing on the New School’s website
New School professor Aristide R. Zolberg, one of the world’s leading voices on the politics, history, and ethics of immigration, has died at the age of 81. Zolberg served as Walter A. Eberstadt Professor of Politics and University in Exile Professor Emeritus at The New School for Social Research. A distinguished political scientist and a preeminent scholar of comparative politics, the history of international migration, nationalism and ethnicity, and immigration policy in North America and Western Europe, he served for many years as the founding director of the International Center for Migration, Ethnicity and Citizenship at The New School.
Early in life, Zolberg experienced first-hand the perils of war, ethnic hatred, displacement, and exile. A Polish Jew, Ary was born shortly before the Nazis rose to power, and survived World War II under an assumed Catholic identity in Belgium. After the war he became a refugee in the United States, and earned his doctorate in political science at the University of Chicago.
Zolberg mentored and inspired several generations of colleagues and students at The New School, where he was first appointed as Distinguished Professor of Political Science in 1983, as well as at the University of Chicago and many other institutions where he held academic appointments. Zolberg’s book, A Nation by Design, remains one of the most authoritative accounts of immigration history in the United States and a compelling story of how immigration shaped this country. His humanity and erudition will be missed by countless colleagues, students, and readers.
Yes, he will be missed. There are few political scientists like Ari Zolberg left (in America at least), who have his erudition and intellectual and academic interests and range. Nowadays if one is not a mathematician, or prepared to become one, there’s no point pursing a doctorate in political science.
UPDATE: The website Deliberately Considered has tributes to Ari Zolberg by Jeffrey Goldfarb, Kenneth Prewitt, Michael Cohen, and Riva Kastoryano. (April 26)