For political theorists like me, Jack Schaar is one of the vital presences of the last half-century. He and his wife Hanna Pitkin—along with Sheldon Wolin, Norman Jacobson, and Michael Rogin—helped define the “Berkeley School” of political theory, which not only introduced generations of students to the western canon but also made it relevant to contemporary politics. Though I seem to know more people than I count—including my wife—who were touched by his teaching and writing, it’s a shame still more don’t know about Schaar and his work. Schaar recently died. Joshua Miller, a political theorist at Lafayette College, wrote this brief obituary, which he has not been able to place in the press. I am reprinting it here with his permission.
John Homer Schaar, 83, died of cancer in Ben Lomond, California, on December 26, 2011. Jack was born on July 7, 1928, in Montoursville, PA, where he was raised on a farm in a Lutheran family. He was a political theorist and a legendary teacher at the University of California, Berkeley; U.C., Santa Cruz; and Deep Springs College. He received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from UCLA. In 1958 he came to Berkeley where he won two teaching awards and played a significant role in the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s. In 1970 he joined the faculty at UCSC. His publications included Loyalty in America, Escape from Authority: The Perspectives of Erich Fromm, and Legitimacy in the Modern State (collected essays), and many articles. He was co-author, with Sheldon S. Wolin, of The Berkeley Rebellion and Beyond. An authority on American political thought, he advocated community, radically democratic political participation, and the decentralization of political and economic power. His survivors include his wife, Hanna Fenichel Pitkin, his son, John Homer Schaar IV, and scores of former students who were deeply influenced by his teaching. Details of a memorial at U.C., Santa Cruz, will be announced shortly.