Glenn Loury, in his colleague Paul Krugman’s account, “has become what, say, Arthur Koestler or George Orwell was in another time and place: one of those emblematic intellectuals whose career illustrates in microcosm the dilemmas, temptations, and betrayals of an era.”
Loury has walked the race-and-class walk in two illuminating dimensions. First was his route out of the black working-class South Side of Chicago to an MIT Ph.D in economics and then tenure at Harvard and fame at the Kennedy School. More difficult, I’d guess, was the treacherous path in and out of Reaganism (he became a poster boy against affirmative action in the mid-late 80′s and prayed on the phone with Clarence Thomas during the confirmation hearings) punctuated by personal breakdown and later by a powerful reconnection with his extended family and his black roots. It is great story that’s been told at length in the New York Times Magazine. The major news since then has been Loury’s move from Boston University back to the Ivy League at Brown University; and his taking the John von Neumann Award last month (in the footsteps of Gary Becker) at the Rajk László College of the Budapest University of Economic Science and Public Administration.
So the story continues in our race-and-class conversation this evening as the story of one man’s personal and professional self-discovery. The news of Katrina for Glenn Loury is as much an existential as a professional challenge.