Jeremy Adelman

Worldly Philosopher

The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman

Princeton University Press 2013

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Although defined throughout his professional career as a development economist, Albert O. Hirschman’s intellectual scope defied classification. In Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert...

Although defined throughout his professional career as a development economist, Albert O. Hirschman’s intellectual scope defied classification. In Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman (Princeton University Press, 2013) Jeremy Adelman describes the course of a restless thinker whose life intersected with some of the most important events and developments of the twentieth century. Born to a family of assimilated Jews, Hirschman grew up in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Weimar Germany in the 1920s. After the Nazi regime came to power Hirschman began an itinerant existence, gaining an education in economics from universities in three different countries. A passionate anti-fascist, he fought for the Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War and France in the Second World War. With the fall of France in 1940 he helped many of Europe’s leading artists and intellectuals escape from Nazi rule before emigrating to the United States himself. After wartime service in the OSS, Hirschman worked in the U.S. government on the postwar reconstruction of the European economy before moving to Colombia to serve as an advisor to the government there. His experiences in Latin America proved key to his emergence as a pioneer in the new field of development economics, which led to a succession of prestigious academic appointments. Yet as Adelman shows his readers, Hirschman’s interests were never confined to any one discipline, and his wide-ranging investigations led to works which often transcended disciplinary boundaries in the process of contributing to the intellectual discourse.

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