Max Lerner

Maxwell Alan "Max" Lerner (December 20, 1902 – June 5, 1992) was a Russian-born American journalist and educator known for his controversial syndicated column. After immigrating from Russia with his parents in 1907, Lerner earned a B.A. from Yale University in 1923. He studied law there, but transferred to Washington University in St. Louis for an M.A. in 1925.

He earned a doctorate from the Brookings Institution in 1927 and began work as an editor:

  • Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences (1927–32)
  • The Nation (1936–38)
  • PM (1943–48)

Lerner's most influential book was America as a Civilization: Life and Thought in the United States Today (1957). Lerner was a staunch opponent of discrimination against African Americans, but supported the wartime internment of Japanese Americans and backed an American Civil Liberties Union resolution on the issue to "subordinate civil liberties to wartime considerations and political loyalties".[1] Lerner was a strong advocate of the New Deal[2] during the 1930s.

His column for the New York Post debuted in 1949. It earned him a place on the master list of Nixon political opponents. During most of his career he was considered a liberal. In his later years, however, he was seen as something of a conservative, due to expressing support for the Reagan administration.[2]

He taught at Sarah Lawrence College, Harvard University, Williams College, United States International University, the University of Notre Dame, and Brandeis University. Lerner was also a close friend of film star Elizabeth Taylor during her marriage to Eddie Fisher.[3] He is referenced in the lyrics to the Phil Ochs song, "Love Me, I'm a Liberal": "You know, I've memorized Lerner and Golden".

His book, The Unfinished Country, is a collection of more than 200 of his daily columns, which were written for the New York Post over the span of more than a decade. The Unfinished Country contains one of his better-known quotes: "The turning point in the process of growing up is when you discover the core of strength within you that survives all hurt." His 1990 book, Wrestling with the Angel, was about his long struggle with illness.[4]

Lerner's granddaughter is American actress Betsy Russell.


  1. Irons, Peter. Justice at War: The Story of the Japanese-American Internment Cases, pg. 129 (1983)
  2. Sanford Lakoff, "Preface", pp. ix-xxi, in Lakoff, Max Lerner : Pilgrim in the Promised Land. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. ISBN 0-226-46831-3
  3. Schine, Cathleen (October 18, 1981). Bad Luck and Violet Eyes. New York Times
  4. Severo, Richard (June 6, 1992). Max Lerner, Writer, 89, Is Dead; Humanist on Political Barricades. New York Times

Further reading

Romano, C. America the Philosophical (2012).

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