Daniel W. Drezner

Albert Hirschman, R.I.P.

Albert Hirschman, R.I.P.

Dani Rodrik tweets that Albert O. Hirschman has passed away.  Over at Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrok has a lovely obituary up explaining Hirschman’s life and work. 

You humble blogger has, on occasion, waxed poetic about Hirschman’s accomplishments as a scholar and a writer. His primary area of expertise was in development economics, particularly in Latin America. He was a true giant in the larger study of political economy — which is why my best-global-political-economy-of-the-year awards are named The Albies. The Social Science Research Council also named a prestigious award after Hirschman:

The Prize recognizes Albert Hirschman’s pioneering role in contemporary social science and public policy as well as his life-long commitment to international economic development. Exploring theory and practice, the history of ideas – economic, social or political – and innovative approaches to fostering growth, Hirschman has seen scholarship both as a tool for social change and as an inherent value in a world in need of better understanding. He has written in ways that help social science effectively inform public affairs. His work stands as an exemplar of the necessary knowledge that the Social Science Research Council seeks to develop and the interdisciplinary and international approach in which it works.

What did Hirschman write to earn such honorifics? Well, Exit, Voice and Loyalty is one of those books that you have to read if you’re earning a Ph.D. in any social science; as I’ve said before, that book was crucial to some of my thinking behind All Politics is Global. Beyond that book, however, Hirschman wrote must-read books on international economic power (National Power and the Structure of Foreign Trade), economic ideas (The Passions and the Interests), political rhetoric (The Rhetoric of Reaction), and the evolution of the social sciences themselves ("Paradigms as a Hindrance to Understanding").

Hirschman’s ideas ere important, but I’d argue that his writing style was equaly important — clear, lucid, vivid, never a word wasted. As a grad student, I dozed off a lot reading a necessary but abstruse journal article. One did not fall asleep reading Hirschman — hell, he was better than any energy drink in boosting one’s intellectual energies.

He will be missed — but not forgotten.