Sheldon Wolin

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Sheldon S. Wolin
Born1922
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolPolitical philosophy
Main interestsdemocracy, political philosophy
Notable ideasmorality as a map, inverted totalitarianism
Influenced
 
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Sheldon S. Wolin
Born1922
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolPolitical philosophy
Main interestsdemocracy, political philosophy
Notable ideasmorality as a map, inverted totalitarianism
Influenced

Sheldon S. Wolin (/ˈwlɪn/; born August 4, 1922) is an American political philosopher and writer on contemporary politics. Wolin is currently Professor of Politics, Emeritus, at Princeton University, where he taught from 1973 to 1987.

During a teaching career which spanned over forty years Wolin also taught at Oxford University, Oberlin College, Cornell University, UCLA, University of California, Berkeley, and University of California, Santa Cruz.[1] During this time he mentored many graduate students who would become leading political theorists, such as Cornel West, Wendy Brown (who dedicated her famous book States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity[2] to him), and Hanna Fenichel Pitkin. He was also a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books.[3] A critic of contemporary American politics,[4][5] Wolin is known for coining the term inverted totalitarianism. His most famous work is Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought.

Early life[edit]

He attended Oberlin College as an undergraduate. During World War II, he was a bomber pilot. He was married to Emily Purvis Wolin for over sixty years. (She died in 2012.)

Academic career[edit]

In 1950, Wolin received his Harvard University doctorate for a dissertation titled Conservatism and Constitutionalism: A Study in English Constitutional Ideas, 1760–1785. After teaching briefly at Oberlin College, Wolin taught at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1954 to 1970. In a political science department that was largely composed of empirical studies of micro-political issues, Wolin was a political theorist who managed to build that component of the program by bringing Norman Jacobson, John Schaar, and Hanna Pitkin into the department. He was a major supporter and interpreter to the rest of the world of the theory behind the Free Speech Movement, and he became a mentor to one of the FSM's more prominent activists, Michael Lerner on whose Ph.D. committee he served. He also published frequently for The New York Review of Books during the 1970s.[6] He left Berkeley in Fall, 1971 with John H. Schaar to teach at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he taught until Spring, 1972.

From 1973 through 1987, Wolin was Professor of Politics at Princeton University where he mentored a large number of students who have subsequently become leading figures in contemporary political theory, including most notably: at Berkeley, Hanna Pitkin (Emeritus, Berkeley), J. Peter Euben (Emeritus, Duke University), the late Wilson Carey McWilliams (Rutgers), and at Princeton, Uday Mehta (CUNY Graduate Center), Wendy Brown (Berkeley), Frederick M. Dolan (Emeritus, Berkeley and California College of the Arts), Dana Villa (Notre Dame), Nicholas Xenos (Massachusetts), John R. Wallach (Hunter College & The Graduate Center, CUNY), Kirstie McClure (UCLA) and Cornel West (Princeton). At Princeton, Wolin led a successful faculty effort to pass a resolution urging university trustees to divest from endowment investment in firms that supported South African apartheid.

Aside from Oberlin, UC Berkeley and Princeton, Wolin has also taught at UC Santa Cruz, UC Los Angeles, International Christian University (Tokyo, Japan), Cornell University, and Oxford University.

Political theorist[edit]

Wolin made his name with the 1960 publication of Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought (Princeton 1960, 2nd Ed. 2004). He published a seminal article, "Political Theory as a Vocation" (1969) that challenged positivist political science and enlivened the field of political theory. In addition to the usual canon of Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Machiavelli and Rousseau, Wolin wrote penetrating essays on Augustine of Hippo, Richard Hooker, David Hume, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Max Weber, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, and John Dewey as well as books on the American Constitution and Alexis de Tocqueville.

Wolin defended a radical account of democracy. He took it not as a form of government, but as a form of political activity which needs to be wrested away from its close association with the megastate.

As political theorist William E. Connolly notes,

Politics and Vision did not simply tell us how important it is to address the “tradition” of Western political thought, it engaged comparatively a series of exemplary political thinkers in pre-Christian thought, Christendom, and the modern world in a way that revivified the energy, confidence, and vision of an entire generation of political theorists.

— Democracy and Vision, Princeton 2001.

Wolin's work addresses participatory democracy with primary focus on the United States. He makes a distinction between democracy as system of governance and any of the formal political institutions of the state. In other words, he decouples democracy from governance and towards a political system based on democratic principles.

Works[edit]

Books[edit]

Articles[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Sheldon S Wolin", Bios, Lannan .
  2. ^ Press, Princeton .
  3. ^ "Swolin", Politics, Princeton .
  4. ^ Press, Princeton .
  5. ^ Common dreams .
  6. ^ "Sheldon S. Wolin". Contributors. The New York Review of Books. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]