Passings: Leo Panitch, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus

A candle
A memorial candle

J.J. McMurtry, dean, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, has issued the following announcement to the York University community.

It is with great sadness that I share news of the passing of Leo Panitch, FRSC, on Saturday, Dec. 19. Professor Panitch was a friend and mentor to many of us at York University, and we will miss him and his intellect immensely.

Leo Panitch
Leo Panitch

Throughout his career, Leo was driven to understand and to contest the contradictions between the formal equality of the liberal world order and the deep and growing inequalities produced by contemporary capitalism. Those concerns led him first to study the contradictions of corporatism, then, as global capitalism entered its neoliberal phase, to the nature of the state and its relationship to political and labour organizations. Most recently, he had turned his attention to the global system, and produced groundbreaking work on the nature of contemporary, neoliberal capitalist empire. In the process, Leo Panitch has come to be recognized among the foremost socialist thinkers of our age with a truly global following.

Leo has also made an immeasurable contribution to the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies through his work in building the Department of Political Science, now Politics, into one of the world’s leading sites for the critical study of politics. He taught, supervised and advised a generation of students, and his mark on the intellectual landscape of Canada, and indeed globally, is indelible. He also contributed in service, as Chair of the department in the late 1980s, but also in providing leadership to its growth and development as others took up the Chair in turn. For many he was fondly known as ‘Chairman Leo’ reflecting both his departmental leadership as well as his place in the socialist pantheon in Canada and around the world.

This week we are thinking of Leo’s family and friends, for whom this holiday season will be especially hard. We will also be thinking on Leo’s legacy here in our Faculty, which includes not only his own work but the graduate students and up-and-coming academics he mentored, the undergraduate students he taught, and his influence on political science beyond our institution.

In the coming weeks we will be working in the Faculty to come up with appropriate ways to acknowledge Leo’s contributions to our intellectual and community life.

J.J. McMurtry
Dean, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

About Leo Panitch

Leo Panitch was born in Winnipeg, Man. He earned a BA in economics and political science from the University of Manitoba before attending the London School of Economics, were he earned a master of science degree and a PhD in philosophy. Panitch joined York University as a professor of political science in 1984 and stayed until his retirement in 2016. While at York, Panitch was a York University Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Political Science, as well as a Royal Society of Canada Fellow and a Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy (appointed in 2002 and renewed in 2009). He edited 33 annual volumes of the Socialist Register­ – including the recently published 2021 volume – and authored more than 100 articles and nine books.