Message from the Dean

IMG - Will Milberg
William Milberg, Dean

Welcome to the New School for Social Research, where you don’t come just to study but to absorb a world and an ethos of challenging academic orthodoxy and asking big questions about society. The New School for Social Research is a graduate school with a distinctive intellectual tradition that thrives on public debate and cultivates academic rigor. Its small programs encourage close collaboration between students and professors. The New School for Social Research has always had the characteristic of being both intimate and worldly, as evidenced by passionate discussions in courses and corridors; engagement with the political and cultural life of New York City; and participation in popular and academic institutions around the world.


This year we mark the 80th anniversary of the University in Exile, which was the foundation of The New School for Social Research. The University in Exile was founded in 1933 as a home for a small group of distinguished German scholars fleeing Nazism. They were brought to New York under the leadership of Alvin Johnson, a pioneering social scientist and educator with strong ties to international social sciences. The faculty of the University in Exile included such luminaries as Emil Lederer, Max Wertheimer, Frieda Wunderlich, and Hans Speier. They fled from a country on the verge of war and dedicated themselves to addressing the major problems of their times. Their goal was to continue and expand their intellectual engagement, to mentor future generations of scholars, and to pursue academic research and publication. After the war, other notable refugee scholars, such as Leo Strauss and Hannah Arendt came to The New School, building our reputation as a stronghold of European scholarship in the U.S.

The roots of our graduate school can be traced further back, to 1919, with the founding of The New School, a forward-looking institution started by progressive and pragmatist educators who pursued a new audience and a new model for higher education. Their mission was to offer courses to working people from all walks of life, based on the conviction that public debate was essential to an open society and that learning should not be limited by the boundaries of an academic institution. Among the founders and first teachers at The New School were John Dewey, Thorstein Veblen and Charles A. Beard. We are proud to be the main research division in a university built on questioning the conventions of knowledge and pedagogy and fostering the links among work, training and education.

Big Research Questions

Today’s New School for Social Research is a remarkable product of the original New School and the University in Exile. We embrace both political scientist Charles Beard’s 1919 insistence on “an impartial and open-minded consideration of present difficulties” and Hannah Arendt’s 1971 plea that scholars avoid standard ideas “which have the socially recognized function of protecting us against reality.” The New School for Social Research is global in its scope. We attract students and faculty from around the world, and we continue to value the New School traditions: open, unorthodox and provocative, and committed to the values of democracy and social justice.

The faculty of The New School for Social Research publishes a prodigious amount of scholarship every year—books, articles, research reports, and policy briefs. They participate in research projects and conferences around the world, give public lectures, write for newspapers and magazines, work with public policy groups, write popular blogs, and appear in radio and TV interviews. From James Miller’s writings on the relation between philosophers’ lives and their ideas to Miriam Ticktin’s scrutiny of humanitarianism in migration policy, Kumaraswamy Vellupillai’s mathematical critique of economists’ notions of rationality and equilibrium, and Bill Hirst’s investigations of the problems of memory, to mention just a few, our faculty is united by a sense of the importance of boldly questioning conventional thinking and expanding the boundaries of social thought.

The New School for Social Research is organized into eight academic departments: anthropology, economics, history, philosophy, politics, psychology, sociology, and liberal studies. Students have the opportunity to take courses in other departments than their own. Lectures and seminars often attract students and faculty from different fields and with different perspectives. You can find a Sociology student in an Economics course on political economy, an Economics student in a seminar on Hegelian philosophy, and an Anthropology student in a Politics course on the politics of ethnography. The Liberal Studies program is interdisciplinary by design and connects social research to the humanities.

New Programs and Facilities

In 2013, the university is opening the Center for Capitalism Studies, inspired by the late, great New School for Social Research economist Robert Heilbroner, who wrote that “Capitalism’s uniqueness in history lies in its continuously self-generated change, but it is this very dynamism that is the system’s chief enemy.” The center will provide a space for faculty and students to investigate capitalism in its historical context and from the perspectives of economics, policy, ethics, culture, media, and the visual arts. Their work will expand our understanding of how capitalism informs political, technological, and creative actions. The Center for Capitalism Studies will offer team-taught interdisciplinary graduate courses and a series of lectures by distinguished scholars. Other new interdisciplinary programs are being formed that will address gender and sexuality, conflict resolution, creative publishing, and ethnographic methods.

In 2013 we will also launch a New School for Social Research online blog, Public Seminar, produced by and for faculty, students, alumni, and friends and colleagues from around the world. Public Seminarwill be committed to creating a distinguished online intellectual community, suspicious of clichés, informed by diverse experiences, theoretically heterodox, politically plural and worldly. The blog will serve as an extension of the New School’s legendary General Seminar, the lively, interdisciplinary seminar series that has run since the 1930’s, with a goal of resisting the limitations of traditional disciplinary discourse. Public Seminar online will constitute a General Seminar for the 21st century, building our intellectual community far beyond lower Manhattan.

January 2014 will see the opening of the new University Center, a bold new building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 14th Street. The New School is an urban university that thrives on the culture, diversity, and fast pace of life in New York City. The University Center gives our community more space and resources, including faculty and student lounges, lecture and performance halls, and an expanded library and research facility, all of which will greatly contribute to quality of life at The New School for Social Research and the entire university.

This is my first year as Dean of the New School for Social Research after serving as Professor in the Department of Economics for many years. I am honored to have been selected to lead this great graduate school of social sciences. I am passionate about the intellectual energy and scholarly productivity generated by our faculty and students. The New School for Social Research provides a nurturing as well as a challenging environment. As Charles Beard wrote about The New School in his founding statement in 1919: “Those who have highly resolved that the human mind, which has been so fertile in its inventive genius in the material world, shall be freely applied to the problems of the social world will find welcome, good cheer, and if it is not too bold, some genuine help. The door is open and the way is broad.”

- William Milberg, Dean

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