Irving Louis Horowitz (1929–2012)

Andrea Szalanski

One cannot discuss modern sociology without understanding the contributions of Irving Louis Horowitz. One of his best-known accomplishments is the system he created for measuring quality of life in societies by comparing a state’s aggressiveness toward its citizens in terms of rates of imprisonment and more-violent actions such as executions as opposed to the civil liberties granted. He was also a key figure in introducing the term third world into our vocabulary.

Horowitz was the founder of the Transaction Society and the head of its publishing arm, Transaction Publishers, and its journal Society, which disseminates scholarly articles on sociology, politics, and social criticism. His goal was to subject the social sciences to scrutiny according to rigorous, scientific standards, and he worried that sociology was becoming negatively influenced by leftist ideology. “You do not get good science by being politically correct,” he famously said.

A prolific author, Horowitz wrote and edited more than fifty books as well as numerous articles and essays, including for Free Inquiry. (His last article for FI, “Human Rights in China and Japan: The Pot Calling the Kettle Black,”appeared in the June/July 2011 issue.) His 1957 book, The Idea of War and Peace, earned a special citation from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and heralded his arrival on the scene of sociology studies. It was his 1994 book, Decomposition of Society, that aired his concerns over the state of modern sociology. His final book, Hannah Arendt: Radical Conservative, was published this past spring.

Horowitz served on numerous boards and held positions at academic institutions all over the world, including in Argentina, Canada, India, Israel, and the United States. Since 1992 he was the Hannah Arendt Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Political Science at Rutgers University.

In 1997, he established the Irving Louis Horowitz Foundation to support the work of social science scholars. Horowitz was a long-time friend of the Council for Secular Humanism.

Andrea Szalanski

Free Inquiry Managing Editor


One cannot discuss modern sociology without understanding the contributions of Irving Louis Horowitz. One of his best-known accomplishments is the system he created for measuring quality of life in societies by comparing a state’s aggressiveness toward its citizens in terms of rates of imprisonment and more-violent actions such as executions as opposed to the civil …

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