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 a Boston-based semiotic culture and brand analyst. He is editor/publisher of HILOBROW and the Radium Age science fiction imprint HILOBOOKS. In addition, Josh is co-author of several books, including (with Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth) THE IDLER'S GLOSSARY and THE WAGE SLAVE'S GLOSSARY, the object-oriented story collections TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY and (with Rob Walker) SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS, and (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen) the family activities guides UNBORED, UNBORED GAMES, and the forthcoming UNBORED ADVENTURE. In the ’00s, Josh was an editor and columnist for the BOSTON GLOBE's IDEAS section; in the ’90s, he published the high-lowbrow zine/journal HERMENAUT.