The Public Interest

Albert Hirschman's Rhetoric of Recrimination

Jerry Z. Muller

Summer 1991

FOR THOSE INTERESTED in the links between policy analysis and the history of ideas, a new book by Albert Hirschman is a cause for anticipation and high expectations. Hirschman's eventful first six decades included activism in the German socialist youth movement, volunteer service in the Spanish republican army, underground resistance activity in Nazi-occupied France, a stint in the American army, work on the Federal Reserve Board related to the Marshall Plan, four years in Colombia as an advisor to the National Planning Council, and a distinguished academic career as a maverick developmental economist at Yale and Harvard. His 1970 book, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States, marked his turn toward political theory; it attracted a wide audience and has served as a seminal source for social scientists in several disciplines. In 1974 Hirschman became a permanent member of the School of Social Science at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, where he is now professor emeritus. In the last fifteen years Hirschman has produced a remarkable series of works of intellectual history which explore past policy debates and their contemporary resonances. By demonstrating that the study of policy debates in the past can illuminate policy analysis and political debate in the present, he has resurrected one of the oldest justifications for the study of intellectual history.

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