Hirschman, Albert Otto

Hirschman, Albert Otto,

1915–2012, U.S. economist and social scientist, b. Berlin, Germany, as Otto Albert Hirschmann, Ph.D. Univ. of Trieste, 1938. Of Jewish descent, he fled Germany when Hitler came to power, finishing his education in France, England, and Italy and fighting for the Loyalists in the Spanish civil war. After serving in the French army (1939–40) in World War II, he worked with U.S. journalist Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee in S France to help Jewish refugees flee Europe until he himself was forced to flee. He served (1943–46) in the U.S. Army in the Office of Strategic Services, then worked at the Federal Reserve as an adviser on the Marshall Plan. In 1952 he went to Colombia, where he worked in development economics. From 1956 he held professorships at Yale, Columbia, and Harvard; he was at the Institute for Advanced Research, Princeton, from 1974 until his death (emeritus from 1985).

An advocate of progressive reform who avoided overarching theories and models and tackled a range of topics, he examined the realities of human behavior and society to reappraise generally accepted interpretations and better understand how economic growth and societal change occurs and could be promoted. Among his works are The Strategy of Economic Development (1958), Journeys toward Progress: Studies of Economic Policy-Making in Latin America (1963), Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to a Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States (1970), The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before its Triumph (1977), and The Rhetoric of Reaction; Perversity, Futility, Jeopardy (1991).


See biography by J. Adelman (2013).