Who Was Edward C. Banfield and Why Should You Read His Books and Articles?


Edward C Banfield
Edward C. Banfield was a political scientist who taught for nearly four decades at the University of Chicago, Harvard University, and the University of Pennsylvania. He served as an adviser to two presidents (Nixon and Reagan) and many lesser officials, and held academic positions, including the vice presidency of the American Political Science Association. Banfield wrote 16 books and scores of articles and essays, which received widespread acclaim and criticism….

Banfield’s writings often offended the then-popular elite views of individuals as rational and directed by salubrious motives. He had many warm friends and was himself devoted to “the life of the mind,” but his reading of the evidence led him to a view of human nature that was decidedly unromantic. This is not to say that Banfield did not believe in the power of reason—he did. But he agreed with philosopher David Hume’s dictum that for most persons reason usually is “the slave of the passions”… (Read more at ContemporaryThinkers.org)

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More on the Edward C. Banfield-James Q. Wilson Relationship

Peter B. Clark. Source: jqwilson.org

Harvard University and Boston College held a conference in honor of the late James Q. Wilson in April 2013. The participants and their papers can be seen at http://jqwilson.org/multimedia/thinking-about-politics/

One of the attendees was Peter B. Clark, who authored this article with Wilson: “Incentive Systems: A Theory of Organizations” (Administrative Science Quarterly, 1961). Clark knew both Banfield and Wilson, and was friends with both. In his conference remarks, Clark declared,

“I would like to touch upon one aspect of Jim’s intellectual development; specifically the importance of Edward C. Banfield, and mention a few other persons.I have said on another occasion that my contribution to academic political science was stimulating Jim to work with Ed Banfield.”

Clark’s conference remarks  elaborate further on the Banfield-Wilson connection. Click here to view them.

(For this website’s earlier post on the Banfield-Wilson relationship, click here.)

Full citation: Peter B. Clark, “Regarding James Q. Wilson,” remarks for Thinking About Politics: A Conference Dedicated to Explaining and Perpetuating the Political Insights of James Q. Wilson, Harvard University and Boston College, April 4-5, 2013.

Edward C. Banfield: The Liberal Who Got Mugged On the Way to the Academy

Edward C. Banfield, San Francisco, 1945. Photograph by John Collier.
Edward C. Banfield, San Francisco, 1945. Photograph by John Collier.

Before going to graduate school, Banfield got an undergraduate degree in English and worked for the federal government as a public information officer.

Professor Mordecai Lee and I (Kevin R. Kosar) have published an article in the January 2013 issue of Federal History journal on this period of Banfield’s life. We had toyed with the idea of titling it, “Edward C. Banfield: The Liberal Who Got Mugged On the Way to the Academy.”

Instead, the article is the less cheeky, “Defending a Controversial Agency: Edward C. Banfield As Farm Security Agency Public Relations Officer, 1941–1946.”

We drew heavily upon mid-1940s memoranda and other materials authored by Banfield himself for the progressive Farm Security Administration.

You may read it free of charge at: http://shfg.org/shfg/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Kosar-Lee.pdf

James Q. Wilson On Edward C. Banfield

Source: National Affairs

James Q. Wilson died on March 2, 2012 much to the sadness of so many.  He was a giant in the field of political science, and a nice fellow.

Wilson also was a student of Edward C. Banfield’s at the University of Chicago, and joined him at Harvard.  He likely knew how Ed thought better than anyone.  Wilson and Banfield were collaborators—City Politics (1963) is one fine example of what they achieved together.

Wilson penned the short biography of Banfield, “A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court.”

Continue reading “James Q. Wilson On Edward C. Banfield”

Leo Strauss, “Remarks at Farewell to E.C. Banfield on Departure from Chicago, 1959″

Before Edward C. Banfield left the University of Chicago for Harvard University, he was feted. The famed political philosopher, Leo Straus, who thought well of Banfield, delivered these remarks.  If you can’t see the document below, then click here to have a peek.

A List of Biographies/Obituaries/Remembrances of Edward C. Banfield

James Q. Wilson, “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: A Biography,” Charles R. Kesler, ed., Edward C. Banfield: An Appreciation (Claremont, CA: Henry Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom in the Modern World, 2002), pp. 31-80.

Richard Bernstein, “Edward C. Banfield: Maverick on Urban Policy Issues,” New York Times, October 8, 1999.

Robert J. Samuelson, “The Gift of a Great Teacher,” Washington Post, October 14, 1999.

Harvard University, “Memorial Minutes: Edward C. Banfield: Faculty of Arts and Sciences,” October 17, 2000.

Senator Daniel Moynihan, “Remarks in the Senate, Congressional Record,” October 18, 1999.

James Q. Wilson, “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” Weekly Standard, October 18, 1999.

Charles R. Kesler, “Edward C. Banfield, R.I.P.,” National Review, November 8, 1999.

Editor, “Edward C. Banfield, 1916-1999,Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, Autumn 1999.

James Neuechterlein, “The Unheavenly Urban Philosopher,” First Things, 1999.

James Q. Wilson, “The Independent Mind of Edward C. Banfield,” Public Interest, January 1, 2003.