Two tales of a city

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  • Published 20070605
  • ISBN: 9780733321221
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

Aaron Wildavsky was a fiercely clever, combative kid from Brooklyn who became a professor of political science. He had little small talk but a great interest in ideas, and a willingness to listen and debate. He was firm, expected a firm response and responded in a broad accent with a taste for paradox. Raise a problem and Wildavsky would lean forward, stroke a carefully clipped beard and engage with unnerving ferocity. Conversation with Wildavksy could be exhausting – more interrogation than discussion.

Though born and educated in the east, Wildavsky headed for California in 1962. An exuberant teacher, he joined the University of California, Berkeley and eventually became founding dean of the Graduate School of Public Policy. By the time I met him, Wildavksy had left behind academic leadership to become a full-time research professor and a truly prodigious writer. His top-floor office in Berkeley’s Survey Research Center near People’s Park contained shelves of books to the ceiling, crammed filing cabinets, and piles of paper and correspondence on most available surfaces. Nearby was a full-time secretary to transcribe the stream of articles and books dictated into a voice recorder, along with short, sharp letters exchanged with scholars round the globe.

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