Wayne State University — Detroit, MI
Ronald Aronson grew up in Detroit and was educated at Wayne State University, U.C.L.A., the University of Michigan, and Brandeis University, where he earned a Ph.D. in the History of Ideas. He studied with William Barrett, Page Smith, and Herbert Marcuse. Swept up in the political activism of the 1960s, he became a community organizer in the African American neighborhood of New Brunswick, New Jersey, and an editor of the prominent New Left journal, Studies on the Left. In spring, 1968, as he was completing a doctoral dissertation on “Art and Freedom in the Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre,” he participated in the “Freedom School” organized in the aftermath of the student strike at Columbia University.
Aronson taught at Wayne State University between 1968 and 2013, first at Monteith College and then in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, a program for working adults abolished by the WSU Board of Governors in 2007. He is now Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the History of Ideas. Winner of several scholarly and teaching awards at Wayne State, Aronson is the past president of its Academy of Scholars as well as of the Sartre Society of North America. In recognition of his scholarly career and political contributions to South Africa, in April, 2002 he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by the University of Natal/Kwazulu, Durban, South Africa.
Aronson is author of Living Without God: New Directions for Atheists, Agnostics, Secularists, and the Undecided (Counterpoint, September, 2008). His latest book is We: Reviving Social Hope, published in April, 2017 by University of Chicago Press. Other books include We Have Only this Life to Live: Selected Essays 1939-1975 of Jean-Paul Sartre (NYReview Editions, 2013); Camus & Sartre: The Story of a Friendship and the Quarrel that Ended It (Chicago, January, 2004); and After Marxism (Guilford, 1995). Recent articles have appeared in Salon.com, The Boston Review, The Nation, Common Dreams, and Alternet. His writing has also appeared in Bookforum, The Yale Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Washington Post, International Herald-Tribune, Toronto Star, (London) Times Higher Education Supplement, and The Times Literary Supplement. The Nation, The Huffington Post, The Denver Post, AlterNet, USA Today, and Religion Dispatches among others have published his articles addressing secularism.
Aronson has produced televised political debates on democratic values and affirmative action (participants have included Cornel West, Barbara Ehrenreich, Abigail Thernstrom, David Frum, and Dinesh D’Souza) He is co-producer of the feature-length documentary film Professional Revolutionary about legendary Detroit social and political activist Saul Wellman and 1st Amendment on Trial: The Case of the Detroit Six, focused on the Federal government's trial of Michigan Communist Party leaders in the '50s.
One of Aronson’s lifelong concerns has been to study and write about the nature of hope, which is the theme of his new book and of his recent lectures. In these he develops a secularist conception of social hope in the 21st century and the time of Donald Trump. Since the 2016 election he has been actively organizing resistance activities with the Huntington Woods (MI) Peace, Citizenship, and Education Project.