Irving Louis Horowitz (1929-2012), sociologist extraordinaire, will be missed, even by me. He was a brilliant and stubborn social scientist whose conservative ideology was suitably tempered by a commitment to the truth … which, in my troglodytic, scientistic, narrow-minded way, I equate with science. For all his success as an “idea man” and writer, the enduring legacy of Dr. Horowitz—I always called him that, testimony to the personal gravitas of the man—may come from his founding work as a publisher.
Thus, Dr. Horowtiz initiated the journal, Transaction, subsequently name-changed to Society, in his persistent effort to base sociology on the firm ground of empirical data and solid theory, avoiding the morass of impenetrable verbiage (á la Talcott Parsons) and postmodernist nonsense (á la just about everyone in the 1980s and 90s). He was also founder, publisher and, for a long time, editorial director, wise man, and éminence grise of Transaction Publishers, an increasingly respected scholarly press located, as Dr. Horowitz was, at Rutgers University. That’s how I met him.
Under his leadership, Transaction was open to a range of scientific, empirically based studies of social processes, including—but not limited to—my own favorite, evolutionary biology. Transaction published three of my books, under Dr. Horowtiz’s supervision and with his recommendation: Revolutionary Biology: The New, Gene-centered View of Life, Economics as an Evolutionary Science: From Utility to Fitness, and Gender Gap: The Biology of Male-Female Differences. When it came to politics, we disagreed vigorously, but when it came to science, not at all. Moreover, he was always thoughtful, always a gentleman, and always a worthy intellectual adversary, also, a useful reminder to me that not all conservatives are schmucks (just most of them).
In recent years, we had talked about putting together a tripartite book about the relevance/irrelevance of evolutionary biology to politics: Dr. Horowtiz would argue that an evolutionary perspective supports a conservative political worldview (i.e., his), I would argue that it does no such thing (rather, that it can be seen as supporting either left or right-wing politics, depending on how selectively one chooses to read its “messages”), and we would recruit someone else to maintain that it is, in fact, more conducive to the political left. I think it would have been a good idea, and perhaps it still is, but with Dr. Horowitz gone, I’m not at all sure that I’d have the heart to make my side of the argument, since without his brilliance to inspire my own thinking and writing, I fear the result would be too close to much of what currently passes for scholarship in sociology: complex but barren locutions, or pointed but misleading advocacy.
Whether you agreed with him or not, you would have to agree that Irving Louis Horowitz was complex but fruitful, and his writing and thinking were nearly always pointed, but not misleading.