Another giant of humanistic social science has passed. Albert O. Hirschman, emeritus professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, died December 10, 2012. He was 97.
Like many of the big thinkers of his generation, Hirschman lived through some of the major traumas of the twentieth century. He fled Germany, his birthplace, in 1933 after the tragic death of his father and went to study economics and finance in France. A fellowship took him to the London School of Economics, but in 1936 he suspended his studies to join the anti-fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War. Later, he completed a doctorate in economics at the University of Trieste and then returned to France after Mussolini’s racial laws forced him to leave Italy. In 1939, he enlisted in the French Army and, following the Nazi occupation, moved to Marseille in the south, where he assisted with the clandestine rescue and escape of refugees. When his activities were discovered, he himself had to flee. In 1941, with the help of a fellowship, he immigrated to the United States. He joined the U.S. Army in 1943 and served overseas for the Office of Strategic Services and, after the war, with the Federal Reserve Board on the reconstruction efforts of the Marshall Plan.