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Subject: Lewis Feuer, 89, Scholar in Sociology and Government

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Date Posted: November 30, 2002 5:40:57 EDT

Lewis Samuel Feuer, a scholar whose career and prolific writings reflected his intellectual journey from Marxist orthodoxy to neoconservatism, died on Sunday at a nursing home in Newton, Mass. He was 89 and most recently lived in Newton and Charlottesville, Va.

He was a professor emeritus of sociology and government at the University of Virginia, where he taught from 1976 until his retirement in 1988. Before that, he held faculty positions at the University of Toronto, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Vermont and Vassar College, from which he resigned in 1951 after some fisticuffs with a colleague over a philosophical issue.

Many of Dr. Feuer's 10 books and more than 300 articles dealt with the psychological roots of modern science and European philosophy. He touched off far-reaching arguments across a wide ideological divide when he interpreted the student rebellions of the 1960's as a largely generational confrontation.

He wrote "Spinoza and the Rise of Liberalism," first published in 1951 and reissued most recently in 1987. His 1974 book "Einstein and the Generations of Science" also remains in print in a 1989 edition.

Also in print are "The Scientific Intellectual: The Psychological and Sociological Origins of Modern Science" (1963, republished 1991) and "Imperialism and the Anti-Imperialist Mind" (1986).

He compiled a paperback anthology, "Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy" (1959), which appeared just as a decade of campus unrest over race and the Vietnam War began. It was required reading for the New Left of the 1960's.

Dr. Feuer struck a nerve with "The Conflict of Generations: The Character and Significance of Student Movements" (1969). It contended that student alienation arose chiefly from the age-old clash between fathers and sons.

Some commentators accepted it as an adaptation of the Oedipus complex to the issue at hand but wondered how it applied to the American campus in particular. Others were more critical. Dan Wakefield, writing in The Atlantic magazine, said the book sought to psychoanalyze away "the most idealistic and sincere actions."

"Feuer," Mr. Wakefield asserted, "uses the cheapest kind of Freudian mumbo jumbo to seek to discredit almost everything about the student movement and to ignore what he can't discredit."

Dr. Feuer was born in a Manhattan tenement and grew up on the Lower East Side. He graduated from City College in 1931 and received an A.M. in 1932 and a Ph.D. in philosophy in 1935 from Harvard University. He considered Communism his spiritual home until the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of 1939, which temporarily allied Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia.

Serving in the Army in World War II, he became a sergeant but was demoted to private for trying to organize local workers in New Caledonia, a French possession east of Australia. He contended that Free French forces were holding the workers in virtual slavery as they built airstrips for the Allied military.

Upon Dr. Feuer's discharge in 1946, Vassar appointed him an associate professor of philosophy, but he left after what the college described as a "long-standing extreme clash of personalities" and "differences of opinion philosophically" with another professor erupted into a fist fight.

Professor Feuer next taught at Vermont until 1957 and then, until 1966, at Berkeley. In 1963 he took part in an early academic exchange with the Soviet Union and began a series of lectures on Marxism at Moscow University.

What he had to say displeased his hosts, who ordered students away after the first lecture. Before leaving, he also had spirited exchanges with his Soviet counterparts on subjects like freedom of speech and the status of Soviet Jewry.

From 1966 to 1976 he was a professor of sociology at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Feuer is survived by a daughter, Robin F. Miller of Newton, and three granddaughters. His wife, Kathryn Beliveau Feuer, died 10 years ago after 55 years of marriage.

His interest in matters philosophical was matched by a fascination with Sherlock Holmes. He condensed it in a historical whimsy of a novel, "The Case of the Revolutionist's Daughter: Sherlock Holmes meets Karl Marx" (Prometheus, 1983), which remains in print. In it, Holmes is hired by Marx to investigate the disappearance of his daughter, Eleanor, who actually committed suicide in 1898.

After his own break with Marx, the philosopher, Dr. Feuer, according to his family, adopted a personal mantra, "For Hegel I would not give a bagel!"

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