Peretz-Harvard Finale

For the record, a compendium of reactions and events at this weekend's 50th Anniversary of the Social Studies program at Harvard:

1) As mentioned before, a dramatic video has been posted of Martin Peretz (accompanied by, among others, an understandably stricken-looking Michael Walzer) walking through chanting protesters on his way from Harvard's Science Center to Adams House, where a celebratory lunch for tutors in the program, including him, was being held.

2) Robert Paul Wolff, the first head tutor of the Social Studies program, was the main speaker at that lunch. He is not at all a fan of Peretz's and has a very tough post-event report on his site, here. For example:

Let me back up a bit and try to get some perspective. This was a gathering of more than four hundred former and present Social Studies majors -- possibly the largest assemblage of sophisticated social theorists since the last garden party of the Frankfort School for Social Research. These are people who think nothing of discerning the deeper ideological meaning in Afghan popular music or Tibetan architecture, or teasing out the epistemological filiations between Foucault and Montesquieu. And yet, confronted at their own conference by a massive protest, the best they could come up with was "Marty is a nice guy."

That's not even the tough part.

3) Brad DeLong of UC Berkeley gave a speech at the morning session on the "Barrington Moore Problematic." This is a reference to the great sociologist Barrington Moore Jr, whose Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, which explored the conditions that gave rise to political progress or disaster, was mandatory reading during my college era. DeLong's speech is very good in its own right IMHO -- text is here, audio here -- in assessing the ways in which Moore's model still applies and doesn't. He also addressed, with Peretz sitting in front of him, the "Muslim life is cheap" column by Peretz that has been the most recent source of controversy.

4) Account of the weekend's events in the Harvard Crimson here.

5) To the best of my knowledge, Peretz's latest word on the matter remains his Yom Kippur "Atonement" item at the TNR site. But according to Wolff, Michael Walzer did speak on his behalf, thus:

Walzer began by telling the audience that in 1969, when Harvard students seized the administration building in an anti-war protest, he and Marty formed a committee to defend them, and most of the advocacy for the students was carried out by Marty. This, we were supposed to conclude, earned Peretz a pass on four decades of ugly racist rants. Then Walzer, widely considered one of the preeminent political philosophers of the present day, sank to a really appalling low. He looked at one of the questioners who had attacked Peretz and said, "Have you examined every writing and footnote and every email of each member of the Standing Committee?" At that, the audience groaned, and he shut up.

I have not seen any accounts from Walzer or others of the same events. UPDATE: You can see Walzer in fact making this point at around time 6:30 of this YouTube video. His is preceded by E.J. Dionne and Jamie Gorelick talking about their affection for Peretz as teacher.

There will be more to come over the next few days about attitudes toward Islam, pro and con; but this is it from me on the Peretz controversy, which I never intended to get involved in anyway. It's probably also the time for an all-fronts disclosure/reminder recap: I have known Peretz slightly since the time he was a young instructor at Harvard and I was a student there, but I've never worked with or for him, studied under him, or been in frequent contact of any sort. On the other hand, several of my close friends are former students, proteges, or employees of his and are generally very loyal to him. All around I am sorry that things have ended up this way.