A Eulogy

STEPHEN A. RESNICK (1938-2013)

Friday, 4 January 2013

It’s hard to believe that we are here to say good-bye. Standing together at his grave site, we are now “compelled to face with sober senses” the fact that Steve’s journey in this world has ended. Fortunately, our journey with him has not.

My own journey with Steve started before I even met him. I stumbled across an article he wrote in 1975, published in the American Economic Review (the last time he would be allowed to publish something in a mainstream economics journal), “The State of Development Economics.” (If I’m not mistaken, Steve gave it in a session at the AEA meetings that also included Rick Wolff.) It was simply the best, most consistently radical critique of mainstream development economics I had ever read. And it remains so. (If I remember correctly, it was after that session that Steve was declared persona non grata by many in the discipline.)

That article is one of the main reasons I decided to attend UMass (with the intention of studying Marxism with him and others for a few years, and then going off and trying to find a job). Little did I know I was just at the beginning of a long—intellectual and personal—journey with Steve.

I won’t bore you with the details. But I consider myself fortunate: during my first semester at UMass (in 1977) I served as Steve’s Teaching Assistant for that marvelous Principles of Microeconomics course he taught for so many years (and then, in the following semester, I was Rick’s TA—what an apprenticeship for teaching those two semesters were for me!). At the same time, I was taking Steve’s European economic history course (during which we managed to make it all the way up to 1650). Then, the journal group (where we discussed that first paper of the new work Steve and Rick were doing, “The Theory of Transitional Conjunctures and the Transition From Feudalism to Capitalism in Western Europe”), the founding of AESA (the Association for Economic and Social Analysis, which continues as a vital and vibrant entity to this day), and finally the journal we had long wanted to get started (Rethinking Marxism, which is now, much to our surprise, in its twenty-third year).

None of that would have happened without Steve’s extraordinary commitment, intellectual inspiration, and dedication to teaching.

It’s that commitment to teaching I was inspired by, once again, when I saw Steve for the last time this past summer.  Once again, I drove down from Vermont and there he was at the door, with a big smile, a strong embrace, and an impatience to tell me his latest teaching story. It seems some of the medical staff learned about Steve’s work and, after talking with him, one of them even went out and bought one of his books. He couldn’t contain himself in expressing his pride (and he was, as we all know, a proud man) that, even when hooked up to the tubes that were sapping his physical strength, he was able to continue to teach.

So I left him later that day, recommitted to the teaching I’ve been doing for the past three decades, feeling grateful that for the better part of my adult life I have been on a journey in which Steve was present—as my mentor, comrade, and dear friend.

Fortunately, that journey with Steve continues—as I join many, many others in remembering and celebrating the warmth of his friendship, his steadfast commitment to ending social injustice, and his intellectual and pedagogical contributions to the rethinking of Marxism.

David F. Ruccio


Please feel free to leave your thoughts and memories to the comments section below.