Wilson Carey McWilliams, R.I.P.

As Commonweal was absorbing the fact of John Paul II’s passing, we received the sad news of the sudden death, at seventy-one, of our long-time contributor and good friend Wilson Carey McWilliams. Carey, professor of political science at Rutgers, has anchored much of our coverage of electoral politics for a decade or more. His writing was often brilliant, always lucid, and infused with a fair-mindedness and intellectual generosity that reflected his deep, abiding commitment to the commonweal. He was, after all, the much-admired author of The Idea of Fraternity in America.

Carey made his first appearance in these pages on November 8, 1963, in an essay (“A Non-Aggression Pact?”) defending the usefulness of treaties and exposing the “fallacy of cynicism” in political affairs. In an effort to persuade skeptics, he slyly noted that the effects of any nonaggression treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union “would be minimal and hence almost without risk for either side.” He went on, however, to use the objections of critics to buttress his own, more hopeful position. “The legacy of suspicion and distrust is too great to be bridged except by the slowest means,” he wrote. “But if it can be bridged it will be by a succession of small agreements, a tradition and pattern of cooperation.”

In the dozens of essays and book reviews Carey wrote for Commonweal over four decades, the strength of his unwavering...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.