Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

A.Hirschman, Economist Known for His Optimism

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

A.Hirschman, Economist Known for His Optimism

Article excerpt

Mr. Hirschman served in the French Army as part of the resistance to the Nazis and helped more than 2,000 people escape to Spain. He later became a U.S. academic, blending economics, politics and culture.

Albert O. Hirschman, who in his youth helped rescue thousands of artists and intellectuals from Nazi-occupied France and went on to become an influential economist known for his optimism, died Dec. 10 in Ewing Township, New Jersey. He was 97.

His death was confirmed by the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, where Mr. Hirschman spent the latter part of his career.

Mr. Hirschman pieced together his graduate work in economics in the 1930s while serving as a soldier and something of an insurgent. Born in Germany, he fought on the anti-fascist side in the Spanish Civil War and later joined the French Army in resisting the Nazis.

When France fell in 1940, he became an integral part of a rescue operation led by the journalist Varian Fry that helped more than 2,000 people escape to Spain, among them the artists Marc Chagall and Marcel Duchamp and the political theorist Hannah Arendt.

Mr. Hirschman found routes through the Pyrenees Mountains for those who were fleeing and smuggled messages in toothpaste tubes.

By the early 1940s, he had moved to the United States and enlisted in the army, which sent him to North Africa and to Italy as part of its Office of Strategic Services.

One of his duties was to translate for a German general in an early war crimes trial. Later, he worked with the Federal Reserve Board, focusing on European reconstruction under the Marshall Plan, the U.S.-sponsored program to aid Europe in the aftermath of World War II.

In 1952, he moved to Colombia to be an economic adviser to that impoverished but rapidly developing country. A few years later, he was back in the United States, beginning a 30-year academic career in which he blended economics, politics and culture and held posts at Yale, Columbia and Harvard universities. He rarely invoked the experiences of his youth in his academic work, but certain themes persisted.

Mr. Hirschman argued that social setbacks were essentially an ingredient of progress, that good things eventually come from what he viewed as constructive tensions between private interest and civic-mindedness, between quiet compliance and loud protest. …

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