Irving Howe
By: Joshua Glenn | Categories: HiLo Heroes


A member of the leftist-but-anti-Stalinist posse which he later dubbed the New York Jewish Intellectuals — he attended CCCNY (“the Harvard of the proletariat”) with Daniel Bell, Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, and Sidney Hook; after returning from WWII he wrote for Partisan Review, Commentary, The Nation, and The New Republic — IRVING HOWE (1920–93) was one of the few NYJIs who’d never turn rightward. A lifelong democratic socialist, he rejected the Cold War-era dominant discourse which urged utopianists to become “mature” and “realistic,” i.e., to become liberals or even neoconservatives. Disappointed with the anti-utopian turn of the journals to which he’d once contributed (with the exception of Dwight Macdonald’s Politics, which had collapsed in 1949), in 1954 Howe co-founded the important literary-political quarterly Dissent. In the Seventies, Howe became best-known — because of his 1976 book World of Our Fathers — as a chronicler of Eastern European Jewish culture from the shtetl to the Bronx. But he remained politically engaged, co-founding the organization now known as Democratic Socialists of America, which even today continues to “fight for reforms… that will weaken the power of corporations and increase the power of working people.”


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Dame Darcy, Jacques Cousteau, Iain Sinclair.

READ MORE about members of the New Gods Generation (1914-23).



Joshua Glenn is an author, publisher, and semiotic analyst. He is co-author (with Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth) of THE IDLER'S GLOSSARY and THE WAGE SLAVE'S GLOSSARY, co-editor of the object-oriented story collections TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY and (with Rob Walker) SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS, and co-author (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen) of the family activities guide UNBORED and three forthcoming spinoffs, including UNBORED Games. He is editor of HILOBROW and publisher of the Radium Age science fiction imprint HiLoBooks. Also: Glenn manages a secretive online community known as the Hermenautic Circle; he is founding editor of the e-book club Save the Adventure; and he's a frequent co-host of Boing Boing's podcast GWEEK. In the ’00s, Glenn was an editor, columnist, and blogger for the Boston Globe's IDEAS section, he co-founded the international semiotics website SEMIONAUT, and contributed to CABINET, SLATE, and elsewhere. In the ’90s, he published the high-lowbrow zine/journal HERMENAUT, worked as a dotcom and magazine editor, and contributed to THE BAFFLER, FEED, and elsewhere. His publishing company is King Mixer, LLC; and his semiotic analysis consultancy is Semiovox LLC. He lives in Boston with his wife and children.