Paul Piccone: Philosopher, Historian, Editor

By Joseph “Sonny” Scafetta, Jr.

Paul Piccone

Paolo Piccone was born in the city of L’Aquila (population 70,967 in the 2013 Census) in a province with the same name, in the region of Abruzzo, Italy, on January 17, 1940. He was the oldest of six sons. In 1954 when Piccone was 14, his entire family immigrated to Rochester, New York, where they learned to speak English. His father was a tailor in a working-class neighborhood. When the family members became U.S. citizens five years later, Piccone changed his given name to Paul.

After high school, Piccone completed his undergraduate studies at Indiana University and entered the doctoral program in philosophy at the State University of New York (SUNY) in Buffalo. Together with other graduate students in 1968, he founded Telos, which he described as “an independent quarterly journal of critical thought”, to try to come to terms with the political and intellectual turmoil existing at that time. Eventually, Telos became known as the leading “Conscience of the New Left” journal. Piccone served as its editor until his death.

In June 1970, he received his PhD from SUNY at age 30. Three months later, he was appointed to a teaching position in the Department of Sociology at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1973, he published Towards a New Marxism with a colleague, Bart Grahl.

In June 1977, he left Washington University and moved to the East Village in New York City where he bought an abandoned building that he refurbished as the Telos publishing headquarters and his home. In 1983, his second and only other book, Italian Marxism, was published by the University of California Press in Berkeley. While continuing as the editor of Telos, he hired one of the most diverse group of colleagues and collaborators from all classes, nationalities, races, identities, religions, and occupations.

Shortly after his 60th birthday in 2000, he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer which caused his death on July 12, 2004, at age 64. He never married. Soon after his death, the Telos Paul Piccone Institute was established to conduct annual international conferences to develop new policy ideas for addressing the challenges of modernity by combining critical analyses of issues with a search for alternative approaches to worldwide problems. On June 1, 2008, Telos published Confronting the Crisis: Writings of Paul Piccone, edited by Gary Ulmen, as a 396-page anthology of Piccone’s best articles printed in the Telos journal. The book traces Piccone’s intellectual journey and provides commentary on his thinking about major contemporary issues. The book is still in print and is now available from Amazon.

Sources (all accessed March 28, 2021)

April 2024

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