Patricia McLaughlin, “Is the Author of ‘The Unheavenly City’ Really Diabolical?” Pennsylvania Gazette, November 1973

Edward C. Banfield went from the University of Chicago to Harvard, and then was lured to the University of Pennsylvania for a short time. Thomas E. Lanctot, a former Banfield student there, graciously provided a paper photocopy of this article. (Presently, the Pennsylvania Gazette’s online archive does not go back to 1973.)

At UPenn, Banfield was harassed by Bonnie Blustein, who trashed him in the school newspaper as a neo-Nazi. She and others also  disrupted his lectures.

This article provides some biographical material on Banfield and includes a photograph of him in Rittenhouse Square. It also pokes some fun at the often ludicrous criticisms of Banfield’s The Unheavenly City (Boston: Little, Brown, 1970). You can read this article in its entirety above. The scroll bar on the right-side of the frame allows you to move through the pages. Click the Scribd button on the frame around it to view a larger copy in a new window.

Advertisement for Edward C. Banfield’s Democratic Muse

Democratic Muse Advertisement Cropped
Source: Basic Books

The Democratic Muse (New York: Century Fund) annoyed many cultural elites when it was published in 1984. Even the late Hilton Kramer, who usually is considered a conservative, was outraged. The Democratic Muse is Banfield’s most Socratic book—it unleashed reason upon federal arts policies.

Banfield examined the various arguments for government funding for arts and found them nonsensical and contradictory. So, for example, if looking at great painting is good for the public, then would it not make sense to cease funding museums (which few Americans can access), sell off the masterpieces, and use the proceeds to send high quality copies of paintings to public schools nationwide?  Ultimately, Banfield exposed much of arts policy as subsidies for the upper class in major metropolitan areas.

Above is a print advertisement that Banfield sent to one of his former University of Pennsylvania students, Thomas Lanctot, who provided a copy of it to this website. Clicking on the image above will expand it to full size. On the right, one sees the photographer was Bruce Kovner. This is amusing, as Kovner was a Banfield student at Harvard, and Kovner went on to start Caxton Associates and become a billionaire. (Kovner, it should be added, remained a dear friend of Ed and Laura Banfield to the end.)

James Q. Wilson Reviews Edward C. Banfield’s Here the People Rule

Here-The-People-Rule-200Banfield’s Here the People Rule (1985/1991) is a collection of his best essays on government and politics in the United States.

Perhaps his most famous student, James Q. Wilson, reviewed the book in the Public Interest,which is freely accessible here. (By the way, the archives of which are available at http://www.nationalaffairs.com/archive/public_interest/default.asp.)

Full citation: “Edward Banfield, American Skeptic,” Public Interest, issue 107, Spring 1992, at
http://www.nationalaffairs.com/doclib/20090102_JamesQ.WilsonEdwardBanfieldAmericanSkeptic.pdf

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

Peter Skerry Book Inscribed to Edward C. Banfield

Peter Skerry is a professor of political science at Boston College. His Mexican Americans: The Ambivalent Minority (Harvard University Press, 1993) won the 1993 Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Skerry earned his Ph.D, in government from Harvard. He was as student of Banfield’s, and  James Q. Wilson, a Banfield student, co-author, and friend, was one of Skerry’s dissertation advisers.

Two photographs of a copy of a Skerry-inscribed copy of Mexican Americans are below. The inscription reads, “December 1993 To Ed and Laura Banfield, with great fondness and respect, Peter.”

Source: Kevin R. Kosar
Source: Kevin R. Kosar

Robert J. Samuelson Book Inscribed to Edward C. Banfield

Robert J. Samuelson, the provocative columnist for the Washington Post, was a student of Banfield.  He wrote a touching tribute to Banfield upon his death: “The Gift of a Great Teacher,” Washington Post, October 14, 1999.

Below are shots of a copy of Samuelson’s impishly titled The Good Life and Its Discontents: The American Dream in the Age of Entitlement, 1945-1995 (Times Books, 1997) that he gave to Banfield. The inscription reads, “To Ed, a great teacher, with thanks, from one of his not-so-great students.  Sam”

Source: Kevin R. Kosar
Source: Kevin R. Kosar

What Did Edward C. Banfield Read?

The answer is, “Just about everything.”

Banfield himself wrote broadly, his books and articles covering topics such as agricultural policy, the U.S. Constitution, foreign aid policy, poverty, urban governance… Banfield even penned a few short didactic, short stories.  It is not for nothing that the late James Q. Wilson referred to his former teacher as “the man who knew too much.”

Ed and his wife Laura were bibliophiles—one cannot even venture to guess at how many books they acquired. Their collections held titles on nearly every topic matter: gardening (including mushroom identification), astronomy, history, philosophy, technology, fiction current and century or more old, and, not surprisingly, the classics (e.g., Plutarch). Below are two photographs of a tiny slice of Ed’s politics and history collection.