In Memoriam: Stephen A. Resnick (1938–2013)

Photo Credit: Erik Olsen

Can I see another's woe.
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another's grief.
And not seek for kind relief?

— William Blake

 

It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of our beloved friend, mentor, and comrade, Steve Resnick. He died on 2 January 2013.

Steve arrived at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in 1973 as one of the founding members of a unique economics department committed to offering the full spectrum of theoretical perspectives. There were several landmarks during his long tenure at UMass Amherst, where he remained to the end of his life. He helped establish the Association for Economic and Social Analysis (AESA) and played an essential role in the founding of our journal. Rethinking Marxism. Together with his longtime collaborator. Rick Wolff, and later with his many graduate students, he produced groundbreaking work which sought to continue, but also depart from, the rich and varied traditions of Marxism—considered by many a marginal school of thought, irrelevant at best and dangerous at worst. Forever the fighter, paying attention to but not heeding “conventional wisdom,” Steve tirelessly continued his work on a new kind of Marxism, always keeping class injustices in sight but never alone at the center of social change. In his pursuit of fundamental questions of ontology, epistemology, and causation, he explored a different Marxist imaginary: one that insisted on the importance of class as an important process and struggle but demanded vigilance against reducing other struggles for racial, gender, and sexual equality to mere manifestations of the former. The Marxism he worked for was inclusive, not territorial. His work made space for new types of class activism, giving to and borrowing from other pressing struggles of our times.

Steve's contributions were not confined to Marxism. He had a legendary gift for teaching, a vocation to which he was dedicated and for which he won numerous awards. He was as passionate and engaged when teaching introductory microeconomics in an amphitheater packed with riveted undergrads as when teaching graduate-level Marx to a small group of doctoral students. His classes were oversubscribed, drawing students from across the university. Like the boxer he once was, he took his opponents very seriously and respectfully. He was the epitome of the activist teacher: a fighter for ideas, but an ethical one. Those of us who were lucky enough to have worked with him learned how to teach with love and how to inspire a love of learning. As a tough and demanding teacher with exacting standards, he believed in and always eventually brought out the best in those he worked with.

What distinguished Steve were not only his unique skills as a thinker, a teacher, and a researcher but the deeply felt humanity with which he performed all these. Everyone around him could see the profound love and tenderness with which he harnessed his anger against the injustices of this world. It was this combination of passionate commitment to social justice together with a love of life expressed through explosive laughter and a piercing sense of humor that drew generations of graduate students—women and men, from inside and outside the United States—to work with him. Fiercely loyal as a mentor, friend, and comrade, he was always there when needed and never gave up on those he was committed to, be they students, colleagues, or the Red Sox. He was also a loving husband, father, and grandfather.

With Stephen Resnick's departure, we feel a deep void that is impossible to fill. For this, we mourn his death. In the knowledge that AESA and Rethinking Marxism—the house he helped build and light up so brightly—are still here and strong, we take solace. In the commitment to developing the work he started in myriad and unforeseen ways, we find great joy.

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©2015 Association for Economic and Social Analysis
Page last revised: January 11, 2015