A Fond Farewell to Jonathan Schell

Roundup: Historians' Take
tags: obituaries, Jonathan Schell

Jim Sleeper is a lecturer at Yale. He teaches a seminar on global journalism and national identities.

The writer Jonathan Schell, who taught courses at Yale on non-violence and nuclear arms through 2012, died of cancer last night at his home in Brooklyn. Although I doubt he would have put it this way, or even thought of himself this way, he was a luminous, noble, bearer of an American civic-republican tradition that’s inherently cosmopolitan and embracing, and he drew on deep wellsprings that few others knew how to plumb.

From his beginnings as a brave young Vietnam War correspondent for The New Yorker, to his meticulous yet sweeping case for nuclear disarmament in The Fate of the Earth, through his magisterial re-thinking of both state power and people’s power in The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People, as well as in his wry but rigorous assessments of politics for The Nation, Jonathan took the best of that distinctively American, progressive civic-republican tradition - and, it seemed to me, of a WASP cultural sensibility about which he was ambivalent and humorously self-deprecating - and poured it into the beginnings of a transracial, global civil society....

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