Michael Schober, Dean
Welcome to the extraordinary experiment in American higher education and
intellectual life that is The New School for Social Research.
Within a university committed to an unusually progressive mission—
dedication to the NEW—the graduate division of The New School
assembles a community of scholars who aspire to the broadest, deepest, best
informed, most critical, most global, most forward thinking scholarship,
teaching and activism. Being part of that community stimulates and
challenges me at every level.
Visionary thinking has been at the heart of our school since the founding
of the New School for Social Research in 1919. The founders and early
teachers included leading progressive scholars of the day: John Dewey,
Thorstein Veblen, Charles Beard, Franz Boas, Harold Laski, and others.
Their New School aspired to be everything the old school was not, geared
to learning as an end in itself instead of narrow professionalism, open to
dissenting opinions and the avant garde in art and scholarship. From the start,
conversation at The New School included an astonishing range of academic
and artistic figures. The list of early participants, Martha Graham and Aaron
Copland among them, reads like a catalog of the period’s cutting edge.
In this exciting mix, a particularly visionary effort established the
foundations of today’s New School for Social Research. In 1933, the
president of the New School, Alvin Johnson, was one of the few Americans
to try and help German scholars who were being intimidated and silenced,
and whose very lives were in danger, under National Socialism. The New
School embarked upon a long-term rescue mission, raising money to create
a University in Exile in New York as an academic home for social scientists
fleeing Germany. Among them were economists Karl Brandt, Emil Lederer,
and Frieda Wunderlich, sociologists Hans Speier and Albert Salomon, and
psychologist Max Wertheimer.
In 1934, the University in Exile was incorporated into The New School
as the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science, with 92 students
enrolling the first term. As rescue efforts continued, the Graduate Faculty
internationalized American social science, bringing to the United States a
cohort of scholars from Europe, whose impact was enormous, and this at a
time when Jewish scholars were regularly (sometimes openly) discriminated
against in American academia. This tradition continues today, with
the Endangered Scholars Program, a concerted effort to identify and
bring to The New School scholars who face intimidation and threats of
imprisonment because of their critical perspectives and willingness to speak
out against oppression.
In dark times, the New School for Social Research has stood as a beacon of
cosmopolitanism, internationalism, and serious critical engagement with the
issues of the day. The distinguished teachers who have found a home here
over the years—and any list that includes names like Hannah Arendt, Alfred
Schütz, Charles Tilly, and Solomon Asch is indeed distinguished—have
represented a diversity of theoretical and methodological commitments.
Today’s New School for Social Research continues the tradition of
questioning, critique, political and ethical engagement, and innovation.
Each department or program has its own strengths and focuses, but what
may be less clear is the degree to which the members of our faculty promote
and engage in dialogue that goes beyond the parochial concerns of their
individual fields. This happens in individual courses, in co-taught and crosslisted
courses, in multidisciplinary conferences and forums for discussion,
and in division-wide faculty seminars, which are the norm here but are far
from commonplace in American universities.
Students who come to The New School for Social Research bring their own
commitment to analysis and scholarship to challenge current paradigms
and the limits of existing disciplines. With its commitment to innovation
and to social and political activism, The New School offers the ideal
setting for scholars to face the challenges of the 21st century. Students at
The New School for Social Research represent an extremely diverse range
of nationalities, ages, and life experiences, with an energy, intellect, and
openness to exploration that is the heart of what a graduate education should
The fact that The New School for Social Research is located in the heart
of New York City is an important part of its vibrancy. New York is simply
one of the most exciting places one could be, with more people from more
cultures speaking more languages assembled in one urban area than the
world has ever seen. The variety of cultural, artistic, intellectual, and
political activities available in New York is unparalleled. Our home in a hub
of the globalizing world is part of what makes us special.
As we move into the 21st century, we face multifaceted challenges,
unprecedented in their complexity and global scale. Confronting
those challenges requires new ways to view complex systems, and new
methodologies to study, explore, and change the world for the better. I look
forward to your joining and contributing to the conversation at The New
School for Social Research.
Michael Schober, Dean