[Marxism] Stephen Resnick, RIP

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Thu Jan 3 19:08:15 MST 2013

Stephen Resnick, professor of economics at UMass-Amherst, dies at age 74
 By Greg Saulmon, The Republican 
on January 03, 2013 at 8:00 PM, updated January 03, 2013 at 8:13 PM Print


AMHERST - Stephen A. Resnick, a professor emeritus of economics at the
University of Massachusetts who won the school's distinguished teaching
award and is best known for his piercing critiques of capitalism, died
Wednesday after a bout with leukemia. He was 74.

Resnick, of Newton Centre, taught at the university for nearly 4 decades,
arriving at the Amherst campus in 1973 after beginning his teaching
career at Yale University. He earned a B.S. in economics from the
University of Pennsylvania in 1960 and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology in 1964. During his time as a graduate student he
held Woodrow Wilson and Brookings Institute fellowships, according to his
online University of Massachusetts biography.

Stephen A. Resnick
"His classes were always oversubscribed," said friend and long-time
collaborator Richard D. Wolff, of Manhattan. "There was a magic to the
way he brought this stuff alive and made it exciting."

Wolff, who retired from UMass in 2008 and now teaches at the The New
School in Manhattan, said he met Resnick as a graduate student at Yale.
When Wolff took a teaching position at the City College of New York,
Resnick -- a believer in the school's controversial open admissions
policy -- followed.

UMass eventually recruited the pair, Wolff recalled, as the university
sought to build a "cutting edge and innovative" economics department in
the early 1970s. "Nothing would fit that better than to bring a bunch of
different kinds of economists together in their department," Wolff said,
adding that Resnick was an anchor of the new team of faculty members
attempting to "create program that would make students aware of the
entire range of economic theory."

"It made UMass the place for students who wanted to study both
traditional and alternate theories," Wolff said.

In Thompson Hall, Wolff said, he and Resnick merged offices in order to
free up space to create a student lounge in the economics department. "It
was a place for students to talk to one another, and to meet with us,"
Wolff said, adding that the academic journal "Rethinking Marxism" "was
born and developed at UMass, in that lounge." Resnick helped launch the
publication, now published by Routledge, and remained on its editorial
board until 1994.

In addition to teaching advanced courses in Marxian theory, Resnick's
course load included introductory lectures such as the department's
prerequisite class in macroeconomic theory.

But while Resnick's research and writing offered vigorous criticisms of
what he saw as a fundamental instability underlying the American economic
system -- an instability that surfaced, in his view, in the form of a
business cycle that periodically left large swaths of the workforce
unemployed and businesses facing bankruptcy -- Wolff said his former
colleague brought a sense of balance to his teaching. It was an approach,
Wolff said, that won the respect of students whose own beliefs spanned
the spectrums of political and economic theory.

"Steve won every teaching prize that UMass has -- and that was very
unusual for an economics professor," Wolff said. In addition to the
teaching award, Resnick's accolades include an outstanding teacher award
in the social and behavioral sciences for the 1997 to 1998 academic year.

Wolff said Resnick remained committed to teaching the concept of the
business cycle even as that approach - which had been central to the
curriculum of many economics departments in the wake of the Great
Depression - fell out of favor. "Marxists have developed powerful
insights into the causes and social costs of business cycles in
capitalism," Wolff said, adding later: "Your ability to make sense of the
current economic crisis would be enhanced by studying under Steve,
whether you agree with Marxian thought or not."

With Wolff, Resnick co-authored a number of essays, articles and books,
including "Knowledge and Class: A Marxian Critique of Political Economy"
and "Contending Economic Theories: Neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian."
Wolff said the latter text, published in August 2012 by the MIT Press,
exemplifies Resnick's belief in a comparative approach to teaching the
subject that exposed students to a wide range of economic thinking. "This
is what he always did," Wolff said. "He brought a balanced approach, with
an emphasis on Marxism."

In the fall of 2011 Resnick began a three-year term as the university's
second Helen Sheridan Memorial Scholar, according to the school's
website. He had planned to complete two research projects during that
tenure, with one examining social security, private pensions, and medical
insurance in the context of Marxian theory and the other involving an
analysis of Marxian, neoclassical and Keynesian approaches to questions
about international trade and capital flows.

He leaves a wife, Charlotte, and three children.

Editor's note: Greg Saulmon majored in English and economics at the
University of Massachusetts, and took several of Resnick's classes.

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