An Interview with Norman Birnbaum

By Roger Bowen

In honor of Norman Birnbaum, who died on January 4, 2019, we share this interview published in the January–February 2007 Academe.

In this interview, Norman Birnbaum, one of the country’s foremost public intellectuals, brings to life the history of the United States and the European New Left. He takes us through US and British higher education and politics from the McCarthy era through today, with personal and historical detail that reminds us that the tumult of today has precedent and, perhaps, roots in the 1950s and 1960s. Birnbaum is a founding editor of the New Left Review, was on the editorial board of the Partisan Review, and is on the editorial board of the Nation. Birnbaum was born in 1926 in New York City and educated at its public schools, Williams College, and Harvard University. He has taught at the London School of Economics, Oxford University, the University of Strasbourg, and Amherst College and is University Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University Law Center. His most recent book is After Progress: American Social Reform and European Socialism in the Twentieth Century, and he is working on a memoir titled From the Bronx to Oxford—and Not Quite Back. AAUP general secretary Roger Bowen interviewed Birnbaum in May 2006 in Washington, DC.

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