A Letter From Ajay

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research does not espouse an official political ideology. We are a scholarly organization and house a wide variety of viewpoints. That said, speaking in my personal capacity as the Institute’s Founding Director, there is a type of critical politics that emerges from the work we do – which is often left-leaning – but is not explicitly partisan.

When we founded the Institute nearly 5 years ago, I chose to name us after the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research. This was not because the small number of founding faculty were all deeply invested in the Frankfurt School (they weren’t), but because I hoped we could create a home for critical scholarship and education that honors the legacy of their work. It was also because I, personally, as a Jew and as a Leftist, have taken many Frankfurt School ideas to heart. I have always viewed one part of our Institute’s work as trying to rebuild a new, 21st century form of that efflorescence of intellectual and political work associated with the Frankfurt School – this time not only with Jews (assimilated, atheist, observant, and otherwise) and not only with men!

As such, it is impossible for me to teach Adorno’s rather convincing argument that conspiratorial thinking offers a foundation for fascism out of one side of my mouth while remaining silent about the spread of those ideas with the other. Anti-Semitism (alongside racism, misogyny, class power, and so on) is a pervasive phenomenon.  In this year’s political cycle, we have seen it clearly with the rise of the so-called “alt-right” but also, less frequently, in the left too, as well as in mainstream liberal and conservative spaces.

Because BISR is a particularly – perhaps uniquely – flexible organization, we are able to act on our intellectual and political imperative to remove all of our programming from the Brooklyn Commons despite the significant logistical and financial challenges that this decision entails. But I feel we owe it to our students, faculty, staff, and friends to make this move. We look forward to bringing rigorous, scholarly engagement in the diverse areas in which we work to new spaces that better reflect these institutional values.

Ajay Singh Chaudhary, Executive Director

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