Nathan Glazer: An Appreciation

Peter Skerry

Spring 2016

In the November 1949 issue of the recently launched Commentary magazine, 26-year-old Nathan Glazer, only five years out of City College, disparagingly reviewed Samuel Stouffer's landmark study, The American Soldier. Glazer likened the eminent sociologist's findings to the earthworms depicted in Goethe's Faust: the pathetic outcome with which greedy man contents himself after failing to find true knowledge. This characterization led social scientist Daniel Lerner to dismiss Glazer as "a young man at the periphery of the profession."

At 93 years old, Glazer can no longer be characterized as an upstart. Yet he might not disagree with Lerner's description of his relationship to the sociological profession. This is not because Glazer has not been committed to his chosen field. Indeed, he has been truer to sociology than many of its practitioners, and truer to the cannons of dispassionate inquiry and political commentary than those taking pot shots at academia from the outside. Sociology for him has not been a mere profession, in Lerner's terms, but a vocation, the sort that suffuses one's being and involves much more than a career choice or a set of tools and techniques.

But over the course of Glazer's long life, sociology (and the social sciences generally) have become not only more professionalized, but also more politicized. Surely, this paradoxical development reflects social science's eagerly assumed role as the handmaiden of elite-driven reform — what Daniel Patrick Moynihan once identified, with considerable ambivalence, as "the professionalization of reform."

Reflecting on Glazer's life and work can help us gain some wisdom about this transformation and its consequences. It also affords us the opportunity to glean insights about the deep popular disaffection with contemporary elites — intellectual and cultural as well as political — that is now roiling American society, and liberal democracies generally.


Nathan Glazer was born in East Harlem in 1923, the youngest of seven children raised by an immigrant Jewish couple from Poland, a garment worker and his wife. Like thousands of other such youth in New York City of that era, Glazer attended City College. He earned his bachelor's degree in 1944 and eventually obtained a Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia in 1962. The next year, at the age of 40, he assumed his first tenured teaching post, as a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1969 he moved to Harvard, from which he retired in 1993. But he continued to lecture and write up until quite recently.

These are the barest details of a remarkable life and career. Before he assumed his post at Berkeley, Glazer had been one of the founding editors of the influential opinion journal Commentary. He then worked as an editor at Doubleday, where he helped initiate the mass publication of quality paperbacks. During this same period, Glazer was co-author with David Riesman and Reuel Denney of The Lonely Crowd, the enduringly influential study of American character and culture at the middle of the 20th century. He subsequently wrote American Judaism and The Social Basis of American Communism. And in 1963 his influential study of the continuing importance of ethnicity in American life, Beyond the Melting Pot, co-authored with Daniel Patrick Moynihan, was first published.

As an anti-communist socialist, Glazer was at the center of New York intellectual life at the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War — at a time when New York was the center of American cultural and intellectual life. A decade or so later, Glazer's early involvement as a contributor and eventually as co-editor of the influential public-policy journal The Public Interest put him at the center of a tectonic shift in American life, as Washington emerged as the undisputed cockpit of a once decentralized polity.

Over the decades that followed, Glazer distinguished himself as a keen observer of the most contested spaces in American life — bringing a calm and lucid clarity to complicated debates, without ever being afraid to enter into the arguments himself as a genuine critic. But it has often been precisely his distance from the core of these debates, his remaining somehow always an observer and critic from the periphery, which has allowed him to see what others missed.

To be sure, Glazer's presence "at the periphery of the profession" has in some part reflected his manner of self-presentation: his tendency to be self-effacing and less than forceful, though never lacking sure-footedness or confidence. In an autobiographical essay, he explains that he got to attend college because he escaped the expectation imposed on his older siblings of having to work and contribute to family expenses. He emphasizes, "I showed no sign of being the brightest; indeed, some evidence indicates that I was not."

Glazer once described himself to New York Times journalist James Traub as "a junior member" of the City College circle. Perhaps Glazer simply had in mind his being a few years younger than old friends like Daniel Bell and Irving Kristol. Yet as Traub has noted, when appearing with Bell in Cambridge at a public viewing of Arguing the World, the acclaimed documentary about the New York intellectuals, Glazer "sat back" and deferred to his more voluble colleague.

But at least as important as Glazer's manner of self-presentation has been his journeyman's stance toward his work. At a New York dinner of the editorial board of The Public Interest in 1973, at which Daniel Bell turned over his co-editorship to Glazer, I am told that Bell described Irving Kristol, his founding co-editor, as the hard-to-please skeptic that any good journal of opinion needs when responding to unsolicited manuscripts. Yet just as important was the editor willing to find merit in pieces that might not be obvious and then put in the time to make them work. As Bell put it, Kristol was "the nyah man" who would be counterbalanced by Glazer, "the putt-putt man."

Glazer has characterized his approach in his own writing as "mundane." And in fact, nothing seems unworthy of his attention. Moreover, he has invariably brought to his work a certain humility toward his subject matter and evident empathy for the people and institutions he writes about. Seldom indulging his own biases or opinions, he typically explains to himself as well as the reader the bases of his assumptions and conclusions. The few exceptions to this pattern have arisen either when he was younger, as noted, or when he has written about urban visionaries, elite artists and architects, or his fellow sociologists and intellectuals — elites for whom he has simply had less patience.

Well into his seventies, Glazer hardly felt himself above the tasks of responding to critics, re-evaluating his work, and re-thinking his positions. His characteristic demeanor was particularly evident during the late 1980s and into the 1990s as he recanted his earlier opposition to affirmative action, culminating in his widely discussed 1997 volume, We Are All Multiculturalists Now. And more than a decade later, in his eighties, Glazer was still hard at work.

Even at such a late stage in his career, Glazer has hardly been above giving an account of himself and has remained more than willing to revisit what he argued about multiculturalism and other controversies years earlier. And he has done so without a trace of defensiveness and with characteristic humility, straightforwardness, and even-handedness. Such dedication to craft is all the more remarkable in this age of academic superstars, who may have at one point labored in the fields with their colleagues but have long since grown accustomed to more comfortable surroundings, where they are seemingly no longer bound by the disciplinary canons to which they used to submit and are now free to intone on any number of subjects without benefit of much evidence, or even effort.

Unlike the modernist sculptors and architects with whose less-than-benign influence on our cities he has long been preoccupied, Glazer has sought to avoid heedless eccentricities and egotism. In an article from a volume on the National Mall that he co-edited, he observes that contemporary artists and architects "do not find it easy to celebrate the common ideals and emotions of the community. It is more likely that they will celebrate themselves."

And so Glazer muses on the one exception to the otherwise dismal additions to the Mall in recent decades — Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Aside from intrinsic virtues, he attributes its success to the fact that "the artist's personality and style do not get in the way," primarily because she "was too young (age 21!) and unknown to have developed a trademarked and recognizable style." Of course, any art — especially in our era — requires some considerable assertion of the individual ego. But at the same time, great art, and certainly a great monument, requires the artist to give himself up to the constraints and demands of the task at hand. It is in this paradoxical sense that Nathan Glazer has remained young in mind and spirit.

In many respects, Glazer personifies Karl Mannheim's free-floating intellectual. Yet he has floated free not so much of the wider society's conventions and constraints as of those of his fellow intellectuals, who now more than ever constitute their own self-conscious social stratum. During his undergraduate years in the early 1940s, Glazer did come under the influence of the renowned University of Pennsylvania linguist Zellig Harris, with whom he earned a master's degree while completing his bachelor's at City College. Harris was the leader of a self-conscious vanguard of activists within the American Zionist student organization Avukah, which Glazer happened upon his freshman year at City College — "an accident that had a strong impact on the rest of my life," as he has noted. More to the point, Harris was a socialist for whom social science was, according to his biographer Robert Barsky, the key to fundamental social transformation — what Harris referred to as revolution.

In that period, Glazer was what he has described as a socialist Zionist, who opposed the formation of a Jewish state in Palestine but envisioned a socialist federation that would simultaneously afford Jews a homeland and Arabs a path out of what his circle regarded as feudalism — in Glazer's words, "a binational workers' state, if any state at all." In 1948 Glazer, along with many other Jewish intellectuals, argued against the formation of the State of Israel, though he continued to refer to himself as a socialist well into the 1950s. Yet, by the end of World War II, he was already moving beyond Harris's orbit.

If Harris was Glazer's mentor, he was arguably his only one. That is not to say that Glazer did not come under the influence of other, older intellectuals with whom he came in contact and worked — including Max Horkheimer, Elliot Cohen, and David Riesman. But in his method, style, and interests, he has been sui generis. Among the many books written or edited by Glazer, it is striking that his acknowledgements include relatively few mentions or tributes to colleagues or doctoral students (of whom there have been remarkably few).

In one volume, he thanks his long-time friends and Cambridge neighbors Dan and Pearl Bell. In another, there is a brief tribute to Cohen, founding editor of Commentary. Mostly, there are frequent acknowledgments of help from his long-time administrative assistant, Martha Metzler, and invariably from his wife, Lochi. This is not because Glazer has an inflated view of his abilities but because he is very much an intellectual loner — not out of stubbornness or egotism, but because of his preoccupation with writing about issues and controversies and then re-evaluating his thinking in light of subsequent criticism, controversies, and evidence. As a result, he has never really been a member of anyone's team.

For instance, just as he began expressing his doubts about liberalism's social-policy ambitions in articles such as "The Limits of Social Policy," Glazer was getting an influential hearing in Washington through the good offices of his co-author Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Nixon's domestic-policy advisor. Yet during the 1972 election campaign, Glazer refused to sign on to a "Democrats for Nixon" ad in the New York Times. In fact, he voted that November for McGovern, and then in 1980 for Carter — hardly the profile of a neoconservative.

More generally, Glazer hardly situates himself comfortably among his fellow intellectuals. Writing about New York intellectuals in a piece for the Times in 1984, he acknowledged:

I sometimes recoil from my fellow intellectuals because they are still making too much capital of their old investment in a political history and set of political ideas that, whatever their importance, are only one aspect of the issues we have to understand and deal with.

Such episodes make it difficult to take seriously critics like Dinesh D'Souza, who, in the pages of the Weekly Standard, characterized Glazer's change of position as articulated in We Are All Multiculturalists Now as that of "a tired old warrior's plea not to be called a 'racist' anymore and to be permitted to resume a normal life in the peculiar cultural milieu of Cambridge, Mass." Nat Glazer has hardly been immune to social pressure, but his elusive demeanor shields him from it more than most. Much more difficult to envision is Glazer shielding himself from emerging evidence on an important policy issue, especially one on which he has previously taken a position.


Glazer's intellectual independence is nowhere more evident than in his extensive writings on Jewish intellectuals and American Jews generally. To be sure, there can be no doubt about his self-understanding as a son of Yiddish-speaking, observant Jews. Yet over the years he has written about his co-religionists with the objectivity and incisiveness of an outsider. Never mincing words or hesitating to criticize, he has invariably been respectful without lapsing into fileopiety.

I have mentioned Glazer's opposition to the formation of the State of Israel in 1948, when 80% of American Jews favored it. In "Ethnic Groups in America," written for a collection of scholarly articles in 1954 while at Doubleday, he characterized the contradictory concepts of "the melting pot" and "cultural pluralism" as "propaganda directed toward the older groups of the American population by the newer" and, he emphasized, "particularly by Jews." And in a December 1964 piece in Commentary on emerging tensions between Jews and blacks, he acknowledged a continuing history of prejudice against the latter and argued it largely reflected "the standard Jewish ethnocentrism which excluded all outsiders."

Glazer has been blunter still about his fellow Jewish intellectuals. In a retrospective piece about Commentary during its first years of publication, he expressed surprise and belated criticism of himself and his colleagues for being so out of touch with their Jewish roots, including the various Jewish defense and communal organizations. As he put it: "What was noticeably absent from the line-up of writers at the new Commentary was anyone who had some connection with or inside knowledge of Jewish institutional life, whether political, religious, educational, cultural, or civic, and that was to be a recurrent issue in the early years of Commentary, not to mention its later years."

Glazer made a similar but more trenchant point in "Jewish Intellectuals," a contribution to the 60th anniversary issue of Partisan Review. There he reflected on "why a magazine that was in such large measure created by Jewish editors and writers had so little to say about Jews, Jewishness, or Judaism." His answer was that such intellectuals were drawn to universalist claims — whether of Marxism or communism, or of literary and artistic modernism — that permitted them to escape what they viewed as Jewish parochialism. And though he was careful not to say so explicitly, Glazer almost certainly believed there to have been a strong current of self-delusion at work here; one is tempted to say false consciousness.

Yet Glazer has hardly confined his criticism of Jews to the intellectuals. Writing in 1957 in American Judaism, he gently disparaged post-war, suburban Jewish life as "banal," caught between "on the one hand, the clichés of liberal religion, and on the other, a kind of confusion in which loyalty to the Jewish people is identified with Jewish religion." Subsequently, after the dramatic turning point of the 1967 Six Day War, when American Jews suddenly came to identify with and embrace Israel as they had not done before, his disaffection with American Jewry grew all the more intense. Writing in 1990, he concluded: "The Jewish religion, Judaism, has become the religion of survival. It has lost touch with other values and spiritual concerns." Even the revival of Orthodoxy, Glazer laments, is based not on spiritual values but on Jewish survival.

Though not a believer or even an observant Jew, Glazer is strikingly respectful and serious about religious faith, unlike most liberal intellectuals. And, unlike many conservative elites whose regard for religion is typically on account of its social or political utility, Glazer repeatedly asks the troublesome question, how can faith — and Judaism in particular — sustain itself without a genuinely spiritual basis?


If Nathan Glazer seems destined to stand apart from the tribe into which he was born, he has also been an interloper in the tribes among which he has lived and worked — tribes that don't even realize that they are tribes. Indeed, it is noteworthy that his most acerbic commentary has been directed against his fellow sociologists. Clearly responding to events he witnessed while teaching at Berkeley in the mid-1960s, he has written that sociology serves "as a refuge for the academic action-seeker" who "specializes in unveiling the illusion that has deceived no one."

Glazer has been less stinging but just as critical of the planners, architects, and visionaries who share his passion for understanding and improving urban life but lack his humility and common sense. His posture here clearly reflects the skepticism of social-science based, elite-driven reform that eventually came to characterize The Public Interest. But unlike others associated with that journal, Glazer never developed outright disdain and contempt for specialized knowledge and expertise.

From Glazer's perspective, experts are colleagues presumptively worthy of a hearing, neither to be cravenly deferred to nor arrogantly dismissed out of hand. At the same time, he has long been wary of elites in love with their own ideas, especially those self-consciously motivated by high-mindedness or public-spiritedness, and in particular by modernist universalism that obscures from view the tastes and preferences of those presumed to be in need of uplift.

In Glazer's view, such elites may well know "the best way" or perhaps just "a better way" — more efficient, more effective, more equitable, more socially optimal — to address the needs of a given group or sector than the public generally, including the intended beneficiaries. Indeed, the latter may well be misinformed or misguided. But as Glazer would have it, members of the general public are likely to understand their own preferences in the context of their own realities better than most elites. Moreover, such preferences are shaped, reinforced, and gratified by powerful social, cultural, and especially market forces that idea-oriented elites invariably denigrate, underestimate, or overlook.

So Glazer's critique of such experts is not that they have nothing to offer, but that they tend not to pay attention to the revealed preferences of their putative clients. In his defense of Prince Charles's passionate criticism of modern architecture, which was met with disdain from elite architects, Glazer contrasts the enduring appeal of commercially developed housing in Levittown with the dismal fate of so many urban projects undertaken by highly trained and motivated planners and architects. And he pauses to ask, "Am I saying that the architect can't beat Levittown, and that there is nothing to his skill, his training, his taste, his occasional genius...? No, I would not say that, but rather that the architect has not tried hard enough to find out what people liked, and like, whether in old slums or new developments."

If they spent more time trying to understand how the world looks from the perspective of typical urban residents, planners and architects would learn that families, especially mothers, like to be able to watch their kids play outside where they can get to them easily and quickly — not seven stories up in a building with faulty elevators. Even better, they might realize that families tend to prefer single-unit dwellings for which they are responsible, instead of units in communal settings with amenities like trees, benches, and plots of grass for which no one is responsible.

Not surprisingly, this is the Glazer who, serving in the early 1960s on a federal inter-agency task force investigating the troubled Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis, urged his colleagues to spend a night in one of its many abandoned apartments. They declined, and eventually all 33 of the 11-story apartment blocs, designed by famed Japanese-American architect Minoru Yamasaki, were demolished.

Around the same time, in his 1966 foreword to E. Franklin Frazier's classic, The Negro Family in the United States, Glazer reflected on the challenges facing government officials devising policies meant to influence such a private, personal realm. He goes on to depict a conference he had just attended in Berkeley, at which academic experts expressed misgivings about policymakers imposing inappropriate middle-class values on black families. Not unsympathetic to such concerns, he then quotes with approval "a Negro woman in the audience," whom one supposes was not an academic: "Just give us the tickets; we'll decide where to get off."

But if Glazer's appreciation of Prince Charles's perspective does not make him a monarchist, neither does his defense of popular tastes make him a populist. This comes through in his appreciation of Paris, a city that he readily acknowledges has been critically and self-consciously shaped by the elites of the modern French state. But just as Glazer is enough of a Burkean to recognize that the polytechniciens have been constrained by history and tradition, so too does he recognize in popular tastes and biases some accrued wisdom and rationality, which in any event cannot be easily changed. And so, Glazer has never indulged in bashing experts or visionaries, just admonishing them.


It should be no surprise then that Glazer has never played the role of the guilty white liberal. Nor has he embraced cultural relativism, including the more sophisticated version developed by his long-time colleague and interlocutor Herbert Gans. Yet neither has he been inclined to regard the aspirations and cultural life of ordinary Americans as deficient or inadequate. Nor has he indulged in the kind of ironic, condescending embrace of popular culture evident among some conservative intellectuals who indulge their own tastes but refuse to take such fare seriously.

Such slumming is beneath an observer of Glazer's humility and seriousness, who after all collaborated with David Riesman on the The Lonely Crowd. Indeed, the strikingly empathetic imagination that Glazer has brought to bear in varied writings over his long and illustrious career was drawn early to the work of Erich Fromm and other members of the Frankfurt School, who for all their limitations appealed to a young Glazer because they transcended the narrow, mechanical confines of orthodox Marxist theory.

No surprise then that in 1999, at a lecture at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences honoring Riesman, Glazer identified his colleague as working in the tradition of Tocqueville, whose emphasis on the critical importance of moeurs (customs, or what today we refer to as culture) over formal institutions and laws helped carve out sociology's distinctive domain from political science. And like Tocqueville and Riesman, Glazer has devoted much of his scholarly work to understanding and writing about the importance of culture as a critical but elusive factor in society and politics — one that cannot be reduced to derivative factors, as so many social scientists attempt to do.

In an era of polarized politics and angry, resentful populism, Glazer's perspective, contrary to the dominant thrust of elite commentary, should remind us that what we are experiencing today can hardly be understood simply as a function of increased income and wealth inequality. For his work points to cultural factors not simply as reflections of unequal life chances, but of divergent individual and especially group histories and values. As such, they are not readily or reliably addressed by public policy.

Yet the policy implications of Glazer's understanding of the enduring influence of culture on social and economic outcomes are subtle and surprising. Take his widely noted and controversial change of heart on affirmative action. Having helped formulate the intellectual challenge to affirmative action in 1975 with his book, Affirmative Discrimination, by 1987 Glazer had come to support racial preferences in some contexts, for blacks in particular. Then, in 1997 he published his revisionist manifesto, We Are All Multiculturalists Now, in which he argued not only that multiculturalism was here to stay but that he was, however reluctantly, reconciled to it.

The result was predictable: widespread acclaim from liberals and substantial and sometimes nasty criticism from many conservatives. But for all the commotion, Glazer's shift was partial, hardly a 180-degree reversal. As explained in a 2005 essay, he drew sharp distinctions between affirmative action in government contracting (which he opposed) and in higher education (which he supported). In another piece, he similarly refused to attribute continuing high levels of residential segregation to white prejudice, in contrast to the leading academic authorities on the subject, sociologists Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton.

As James Traub observed in his widely noted New York Times article "Nathan Glazer Changes His Mind, Again," Glazer's qualified support for affirmative action has hardly included a change in his skepticism about the efficacy of government programs in overcoming the challenges facing poor blacks. Indeed, his writings on this fraught topic reflect Glazer's career-long conviction that cultural factors largely account for differential group outcomes and generally cannot be overcome by public policy.


Today, at 93, Glazer is not much heard from. But while he has not written or spoken publicly about the pressing concerns of the moment, his approach can shed a great deal of light on them. This is especially true regarding the cultural and racial tensions that have lately risen again to the surface of our common life.

For instance, though the passion of the Black Lives Matter movement surely vindicates Glazer's enduring concern with the persistent isolation and alienation of African Americans, this unanticipated movement points to the very un-Tocquevillian notion that politics can trump culture. After all, much of the anger evident in the Black Lives Matter movement can be traced to the attention and resources that have been diluted and diverted away from African Americans, who must share the fruits of affirmative action and multiculturalism with other designated minorities, especially Hispanics.

Indeed, our preoccupation with diversity has invariably come to mean that disparate racial and minority groups get viewed through the same lens and evaluated by the same criteria. As a result, the various beneficiary groups tend to become more or less fungible, and "diversity" comes to describe a sea of similarly situated and deserving "minorities." One way or the other, the uniquely compelling challenges facing blacks — and their uniquely compelling claims on the larger society — become obscured in a multi-hued fog of good intentions and bad feelings.

In fact, Glazer's otherwise admirable, even courageous emphasis on cultural factors to explain unequal group outcomes fails to help us discern how the currency of African Americans has been devalued as the political marketplace has become flooded with apparently plausible and widely accepted rights claims from other minorities — including women, homosexuals, and especially Latinos. Certainly, gays and lesbians have likened their struggle for acceptance and affirmation, especially for the right to marry, to the black civil-rights movement.

So too have Hispanic leaders adopted — without much notice, controversy, or pushback — the tactics and rhetoric of the civil-rights movement, including re-enactments of the Freedom Rides with buses loaded with undocumented immigrants. In like manner, these same advocates have invariably interpreted efforts to control, reduce, or reconfigure the continuing influx of immigrants through the same racial lens, and have routinely characterized their political adversaries as primarily if not exclusively motivated by racial animus. And in this project, Hispanics have been aided and abetted not only by the mainstream media and liberal opinion, but by African-American political elites who are, after all, in need of allies to help them sustain and support the premises on which they have staked their careers.

But the cruelest irony here is how the clearest outcome of our immigration policy over the last 30 years — its negative effects on ordinary African Americans — has been almost completely excluded from public discourse. Indeed, African Americans, especially those with a high-school education or less, constitute the one group that has most clearly not benefitted from the sustained infusion of low-skilled Hispanic immigrants, whether legal or illegal. Moreover, as sociologists William Julius Wilson, Richard Taub, and their colleagues have demonstrated, in a city like Chicago blacks compete with Latino immigrants not only for jobs, but for neighborhood turf and public services, including education. We should not, then, be surprised that in the past couple of years the Current Population Survey has reported that while Hispanic poverty rates nationally have edged down, African-American rates have remained stagnant at relatively higher levels.

Nathan Glazer is likely not surprised to hear that Hispanics are competing with African Americans. Nor is he likely to be surprised that Hispanics may be gaining on them. In fact, his emphasis on cultural factors led him to this conclusion long ago, which is why he has suggested "eliminating Asians and Hispanics from the affirmative action categories."

Yet Glazer has not made this case very loudly or persistently. He has apparently reconciled himself to the status quo, not only on account of his overriding concerns about African Americans, but also because he regards Hispanics as benefitting from cultural tools and values more or less like those of other immigrants throughout our history. In other words, Glazer appears to believe that Hispanics will inevitably prosper in time, with or without affirmative action.

More to the point, Glazer's focus on cultural factors has distracted him from considering how our post-civil-rights political institutions are predicated on obfuscating and denying competition among designated minority claimants. One consequence is that it has become almost impossible to assess dispassionately the impact of immigration on American society, and on African Americans specifically.


Michael Walzer has written that "politics at its best is the art of overcoming pride and every sort of individual caprice while still associating honorable men." Strictly speaking, Nathan Glazer is not a political person in this sense; he has not devoted himself to the art of association. But he is an honorable man and a good citizen whose life's work has consistently and continually demonstrated the capacity of "overcoming pride and every sort of individual caprice."

These same virtues of Glazer's come into sharp relief at a time when our leading academics and intellectuals, whatever their rhetoric, are as removed from — and often as disdainful of — the lives of ordinary Americans as Wall Street financiers. Such ever-present tendencies toward elitism are now reinforced by institutions of higher education that have become not only bastions of political correctness but of meritocratic privilege that aims for nothing higher than professionalism. Throughout his long life and career, Nat Glazer has aimed for much, much more.

Peter Skerry teaches political science at Boston College. A version of this essay will appear in When Ideas Mattered: A Nathan Glazer Reader, edited by Joseph Dorman and Leslie Lenkowsky, to be published by Transaction Publishers this fall.


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