Foreign Affairs Luminary Stanley Hoffman, 1929-2015

Portrait by Stu Rosner, via

Known as “the embodiment of what [academia] had once been”, Stanley Hoffmann was Harvard’s double-thread:  an influential intellectual and a serious academic–according to Yascha Mounk.

His views on international organization and law were paramount to an understanding of the field. But he approached the area differently than Huntington or Mearshimer:

There was little grand theory, or Rube Goldberg machine to organize and to understand the world. There is no Hoffmann Theory or Hoffmann École. The comparative historical treatment he preferred was being pushed aside by more deductive ways of thinking and by quantitative tests. The self conscious formalism of hypothesis testing were not appealing to him. On any given topic he wrote trenchant analysis, but on “ theory building” or concept building, he had few “tag lines” associated with his name. What you did learn from Hoffmann was how to connect complex constructions of variables: with Aron, he saw interactions, of ideas, interests, institutions and leadership. You had to learn how these worked in specific situations and that could not be formulaic. Teaching Hoffmann resembles teaching de Tocqueville: deep structure of relationships, but not simple formulas.

Source: Stanley Hoffmann has died. He changed how America thinks about France and Europe. – The Washington Post

I would have liked to have taken a course with him–as many of the current posts are referencing their own experiences under his tutelage. Writing in the New Republic, Art Godlhammer reveals Hoffmann’s pedagogical genius:

He even encouraged it in people like me, who knew far less about the subject under discussion than he did. He pretended to learn from debate even as he was teaching. This was one of his secrets as a teacher: He knew that the best way to bring a student to recognize the inadequacy of her thinking was to encourage its full expression. His remarkably gentle corrections then taught you to enlarge your own thought, and even if you continued to disagree with him, he was lavish with his praise of your progress toward greater depth, nuance, and complexity—for him, the touchstones of true understanding.

via R.I.P: Stanley Hoffmann Was One of the Great Professors of Our Time 

Hoffmann was active in debating, reviewing, explaining, and assessing the nature of power. One of his recent works [here] on American foreign policy in the post-9/11 world was noted by Ronald Krebs  to reveal “an eloquent [voice] in making the case for international norms and institutions that would impart a measure of order to international politics and forestall Hobbesian anarchy.”


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