Stanley Aronowitz is a longtime Marxist and one of the leading figures of the academic left. Born in New York City on January 6, 1933, he attended Brooklyn College for a brief period until he was suspended in 1952 for leading a sit-in, in the dean’s office, protesting the suppression of a radical student newspaper.
For the next decade, Aronowitz was employed in several metalworking plants in New Jersey. In the early 1960s he became an organizer with the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, and in 1964 he took a job as the Northeast Regional Organizing Director of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union (OCAW). During that same period, Aronowitz was active in the civil-rights movement. He participated in lunch-counter sit-ins in Maryland and Virginia, spoke about economic and labor issues at conferences of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and other civil-rights organizations, and was appointed as the labor coordinator of the famous 1963 “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”
From 1964-67 Aronowitz was the editor of Studies on the Left, a socialist journal that promoted “radical scholarship” and articulated the philosophy of the New Left. In 1965 he helped create the Socialist Scholars Conference (later known as the Left Forum) as an annual event. Also in the Sixties, Aronowitz taught at the radical Free University of New York, and he served as the chief New York organizer for the Independent Committee to End the War in Vietnam (which counted religious pacifists, militant supporters of the Viet Cong, and members of the Young Socialist Alliance among its constituency).
In 1967 Aronowitz took a leave-of-absence from OCAW and returned to school, earning a bachelor’s degree from the New York City-based New School in June 1968. He then promptly joined the New School’s Graduate Faculty as a student in the Sociology program, while also working as a consultant for several New York-based social service agencies.
Following a stint as associate director of the social service agency Mobilization for Youth from late 1968 through late 1970, Aronowitz directed the planning and development of an experimental high school in East Harlem and nearby Yorkville.
In 1969 Aronowitz collaborated with Jeremy Brecher, Paul Mattick Jr., and Peter Rachleff to begin publishing a magazine and pamphlet series called Root & Branch, which aimed to adapt the tradition of workers’ councils to contemporary America.
Aronowitz was deeply influenced by Herbert Marcuse‘s Eros and Civilisation and One-Dimensional Man. In 1974 Marcuse invited Aronowitz to present a series of lectures in San Diego, and the two remained friends until Marcuse died in 1979.
While working as an Assistant Professor in Community Studies at Staten Island Community College from 1972-76, Aronowitz earned a Ph.D. from Union Graduate School in 1975. He subsequently served as a Professor of Social Science and Comparative Culture at UC-Irvine from 1977-82, and has been a Professor of Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center since 1983. Aronowitz has admitted that although CUNY originally hired him “because they believed I was a labor sociologist,” he deceived the university’s administrators into viewing him as such: “First and foremost I’m a political intellectual … [I] don’t follow the … methodological rules of the discipline.”
In 1979 Aronowitz was the founding editor of the left-wing academic journal Social Text, where he continues to serve as an advisory board member.
In the early 1980s Aronowitz became a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), and in October 1983 he was a delegate to the DSA Conference in New York City.
In 1983-84 Aronowitz served on the Initiating Committee of the American Solidarity Movement, which was organized by DSA to support U.S. labor unions. Also serving on the Committee were such notables as Michael Harrington, Barbara Ehrenreich, Barney Frank, Irving Howe, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Frances Fox Piven, and Gloria Steinem.
In 1988 Aronowitz founded (and became director of) CUNY’s Center for Cultural Studies, which in 2000 was renamed as the Center for the Study of Culture, Technology and Work.
In 1995 The New York Times quoted Aronowitz as saying: “Capitalism is not a rational system. The only way it turns around is through mass struggle.”
In 1996 Aronowitz and Carl Davidson served together on the editorial board of cy.Rev: A Journal of Cybernetic Revolution, Sustainable Socialism and Radical Democracy.
That same year, Aronowitz and his fellow editors at Social Text fell prey to a hoax by the physicist Alan Sokal, who submitted a phony paper (on quantum mechanics and post-modernism) designed to demonstrate that the magazine would publish pure nonsense about science, if the nonsense was politically correct. Although the Sokal article was an international scandal, Aronowitz was made “Distinguished Professor of Sociology” at CUNY two years later.
In his 2001 book The Last Good Job in America, Aronowitz argues that Americans have “no time for democracy,” meaning that because people must work so many hours in order to cover their living expenses, they are left with virtually no free time to relax and contemplate how a truly democratic society should be structured. For so devouring their leisure time, Aronowitz places the blame squarely on the capitalist economic system and corporate-directed globalization.
From 2001-04 Aronowitz was a consultant to Metropolitan College of New York, where he wrote an Urban Studies core curriculum that was subsequently adopted by the New York State Education Department.
In 2002 Aronowitz ran as the Green Party USA candidate for governor of New York. He finished fifth, garnering just 0.89% of the votes.
Aronowitz signed an April 2003 “Statement on Cuba,” initiated and circulated by the prominent DSA member Leo Casey, calling for an end to American trade sanctions against Communist Cuba.
In a 2004 article titled “Setting the Record Straight: Zionism from the Standpoint of Its Jewish Critics,” Aronowitz wrote that the 2003 American invasion of Iraq “was not a war for democracy, to fight terrorism or, of course, to eliminate Iraqi weapons of mass destruction,” but rather, “a war to establish U.S. dominance over the Middle East.” He characterized “Iraq’s conquest” as “only one component of the intricate, but interlinked U.S. [M]iddle [E]ast intervention” that similarly empowered “Israel to pursue … a new colonialism in the region.”
In 2005 Aronowitz endorsed a “Hands off Venezuela!” Internet petition demanding that the U.S. government not interfere with the governance of Venezuela’s socialist dictator Hugo Chavez.
That same year, Aronowitz co-founded the journal Situations: Project of the Radical Imagination, whose goal was to reinvigorate “the radical imagination in both left theory and in popular consciousness.”
In February 2007, Aronowitz was voted onto the board of the Movement for a Democratic Society along with such notables as Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, Carl Davidson, Angela Davis, Bernardine Dohrn, Tom Hayden, Rashid Khalidi, Mike Klonsky, Cornel West, Leonard Weinglass, and Howard Zinn.
In November 2007 at Michigan State University’s College of Arts and Letters, Aronowitz was a presenter for a symposium marking the 70th anniversary of the death of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci.
In 2009 Aronowitz endorsed the Center for Labor Renewal, which views capitalism as the enemy of the working class. He also served as a sponsor of New Politics, a socialist magazine staffed and run almost exclusively by members of the DSA.
Since at least 2009, Aronowitz has served on the advisory board for the Center for the Study of Working Class Life, a pro-socialist entity at Stony Brook University.
As of March 2010, Aronowitz was an endorser of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy, which “works to advance a new, progressive and non-militaristic U.S. foreign policy.”
Aronowitz has authored, co-authored, or edited more than 25 books. Perhaps his most celebrated title is Science As Power: Discourse and Ideology in Modern Society (1988), whose core thesis is the Stalinist proposition that science is an instrument of the ruling class. To view a list of all the books Aronowitz has published, click here.
For additional information on Stanley Aronowitz, click here.
Further Reading: “New Biography” (StanleyAronowitz.org); “Stanley Aronowitz” (Encyclopedia.com); “Stanley Aronowitz” (Keywiki.org); “Stanley Aronowitz” (by David Horowitz, The Professors, Regnery Publishing, 2006, pp. 23-25); “It’s Not Easy being Green” (RochesterCityNewspaper.com, 10-9-2002, on Aronowitz’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign); “Setting the Record Straight: Zionism from the Standpoint of Its Jewish Critics” (by Stanley Aronowitz, 2004).