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Culture

Writer Jonathan Schell Is Dead

A progressive voice for nuclear disarmament, non-violence and the people's power is stilled.

Jonathan Schell at an Occupy Wall Street event in 2012.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons

The American writer Jonathan Schell died last night, of cancer, in his home in Brooklyn. Although I doubt he would have put it this way or even thought of himself this way, he was a luminous, noble, bearer of an American civic-republican tradition that’s inherently cosmopolitan and embracing but that draws on deep wellsprings that he knew, like few others, how to plumb. 

From his beginnings as a brave young Vietnam War correspondent for The New Yorker,  and his meticulous yet sweeping case for nuclear disarmament in The Fate of the Earth through his magisterial re-thinking of the both state power and people’s power in The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People , as well as in his wry but rigorous assessments of politics for The Nation, Jonathan poured the best of a distinctively American, progressive tradition – and, it seemed to me, of a WASP cultural sensibility, about which he was ambivalent and  humorously self-deprecating – into the transracial, global civil society whose future is dimmed a bit by its loss of what would have been Jonathan’s continuing  insight, magnanimity, and love.

Jim Sleeper, a lecturer in political science at Yale, is the author of "Liberal Racism" (1997) and "The Closest of Strangers: Liberalism and the Politics of Race in New York" (1990).

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