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Jeffrey Goldfarb papers

Identifier: NA-0016-01


This collection consists of the papers of Jeffrey Goldfarb, the Michael E. Gellert Professor of Sociology at The New School. The collection contains teaching files; materials relating to Goldfarb's work in Poland; correspondence; and manuscripts for Goldfarb's published books. Also included are manuscripts of papers delivered at conferences, book reviews, prospectuses, and materials relating to Goldfarb's studies at the University of Chicago.

Also found herein are materials pertaining to the Democracy Seminar, including forty-six audiocassettes primarily ranging from 1984-1989. Among printed material included in this collection are eleven issues of a mini-magazine published by Bread and Puppet Theater condensing newspaper reports of the Vietnam War into handmade pictorial narratives.


  • 1953-2015
  • Majority of material found within 1976-2000



9 Cubic Feet (11 boxes, 1 folder)

47 1/4 inch Audio Cassette

16 floppy disks

Language of Materials



Scope and Contents

These papers document the work of Jeffrey Goldfarb, the Michael E. Gellert Professor of Sociology at The New School, compiled by Goldfarb over the course of his studies and academic career. The bulk of this collection consists of correspondence, syllabi and notes for courses taught by Goldfarb, and manuscripts of books and papers authored by him. The collection also includes audio cassette recordings of Democracy Seminar events. Floppy disks included in the collection are described in the collection guide but have not yet been transferred to an accessible format for research access.

The first series, "Biographical," is a small set of material documenting Goldfarb’s life that are not directly related to his professional activities. Included are copies of his extended family’s long-running newsletter, newspaper clippings Goldfarb had kept, notebooks, and the program from a University of Albany event where Goldfarb was honored with a Distinguished Alumni award.

The second series, "Correspondence," runs from 1977 until 2001 and consists of professional correspondence between Goldfarb and others, typically other academics or academic publishers. It also contains his correspondence with journalists Mike Kaufman and Scott Malcomson, and letters of support and congratulations from colleagues. Included are letters to and from Cornelius Castoriadis, Ferenc Feher, Agnes Heller, Leszek Kolakowski, Donald Levine, Adam Michnik, Chantal Mouffe, Michael Schudson, Robin Wagner-Pacifici, and many others.

The third series, "New School activities and teaching," spans the years 1977-2014 and documents Goldfarb’s career at The New School. This primarily consists of notes on courses he taught, alongside other subseries on projects he was involved in, such as the Alfa Programme on Mass Media and Democracy, the Democracy Seminar, the East and Central Europe Program, and the Katarzyna Kalwinska Fellowship. Included are a number of audio recordings of meetings of the Democracy Seminar from 1984 until 1988, which have been digitized and are available here:

The fourth series, "Professional activities," runs from the 1960s until 2015. It includes notes and drafts of articles, papers and reviews written by Goldfarb, including a subseries of papers prepared for conferences and presentations. It also contains a large number of notes and drafts for books Goldfarb has authored, including After the Fall, Beyond Glasnost, Civility and Subversion, The Cynical Society and The Politics of Small Things. Finally, the series contains papers from his time at the University of Chicago, including his doctoral research on student theater in Poland in the 1970s. This includes his dissertation proposal, articles Goldfarb has written based on this research, course notes, and some of his research materials. Of note in this series are eleven issues of a mini-magazine published by the Bread and Puppet Theater condensing newspaper reports of the Vietnam War into handmaded pictorial narratives.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use. Files containing student records are restricted for 120 years after person's known or estimated birth (or group of persons, like a class). Files with faculty or other personnel salary, performance reviews, hiring information are restricted for 50 years from creation date of item (or last creation date in file). Please contact for appointment.

Conditions Governing Use

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact:

Biographical Note

Jeffrey C. Goldfarb was born in East Meadow, New York on May 14, 1949. He received his bachelor of arts and master of arts in sociology from the State University of New York, Albany. In 1976, he received his PhD from the University of Chicago, with his dissertation research later being published as his first book, The Persistence of Freedom: The Sociological Implications of Polish Student Theater (Westview Press, 1980). Since then, Goldfarb’s work has focused on exploring free speech and civil society in Central Europe and the United States.

Goldfarb was hired as assistant professor of sociology by the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research in 1977, before being promoted to associate professor in 1981, and full professor in 1989. In 1999, he was named the Michael E. Gellert Professor of Sociology. During this time he has also held numerous administrative positions, including director of undergraduate studies at the Graduate Faculty and serving on the Task Force on Liberal Studies in 1997.

Goldfarb has taught at both The New School for Social Research (formerly the Graduate Faculty) and Eugene Lang College, an undergraduate division of The New School. His courses include “Sociology of Symbolic Interaction” and “Media and Politics.” He has published numerous books, including On Cultural Freedom: An Exploration of Public Life in Poland and America (1982), Beyond Glasnost: The Post-Totalitarian Mind (1989), The Cynical Society: The Culture of Politics and the Politics of Culture in American Life (1991), and The Politics of Small Things: The Power of the Powerless in Dark Times (2006), all published by University of Chicago Press.

Along with fellow sociologists Andrew Arato and Elzbieta Matynia, Jeffrey Goldfarb was instrumental in developing the Graduate Faculty Sociology Department’s reputation in Central and Eastern European studies. Along with Polish historian Adam Michnik, Goldfarb helped to found the Democracy Seminar, a semi-clandestine series of seminars on democratic culture and politics initially held in New York, Warsaw, and Budapest. Goldfarb oversaw the New York seminar until 1990, when it was taken over by Elzbieta Matynia. For his role in this endeavor, Goldfarb was awarded the Solidarity Medal of Gratitude in 2005 by Polish President Lech Wałęsa. The Medal of Gratitude is awarded to “foreigners who supported Poland in its fight for freedom and democracy” (Goldfarb 2020).

In 2013, Goldfarb became the founding editor of Public Seminar, a weekly online publication supported by The New School for Social Research. In 2018, Goldfarb revived the Democracy Seminars as a series of articles on Public Seminar, dubbed the “Democracy Seminar 2.0.” As of 2020, Goldfarb continues to teach at The New School for Social Research.


“About Jeffrey C. Goldfarb.” Deliberately Considered. Accessed April 3, 2020,

“Democracy Seminar 2.0- Public Forum.” The New School. Accessed April 30 2020,

Goldfarb, Jeffrey. “The Democracy Seminar, Then and Now” Public Seminar. Accessed April 30, 2020,

Graduate Faculty/New School for Social Research course catalogs (1977, 1981, 1989, 2011-2012), New School course catalog collection, NS.05.01.01, the New School Archives and Special Collections. Accessed April 3, 2020,

New School Observer (November 1997, October 1999), New School periodicals collection, NS.05.06.01, the New School Archives and Special Collections. Accessed April 3, 2020,

“Solidarity Removes Its Logo from The Medal Of Gratitude Awarded to Timmermans.” Warsaw Point. Accessed April 30 2020,


Arranged alphabetically by subject in four series: 1. Biographical; 2. Correspondence; 3. New School activities and teaching; 4. Professional activities.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Jeffrey Goldfarb to The New School Archives in 2017.

Related Materials

The New School Archives holds an oral history with Jeffrey Goldfarb as part of the Democracy Seminar oral history project (NS.07.01.06), and an oral history with former New School President Jonathan Fanton, in which he describes the founding of the Democracy Seminar program (NS.07.01.01). The Archives also holds the Graduate Faculty event recordings collection (NS.07.02.06); and The New School for Social Research Office of the Dean records (NS.02.02.03), which includes files related to the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies (TCDS), a successor center to the East and Central Europe Program.

Processing Information

Unless otherwise noted, all file titles were taken from folder labels presumably created by Goldfarb. The floppy disks in this collection have been transferred and the electronic files are available for research. Files containing homework by Goldfarb's son on floppy disks were deleted during processing. File names of files migrated from floppy disks are not listed within this finding aid, but are avaliable upon request. Email for information and access.

Guide to the Jeffrey Goldfarb papers
Jack Wells and the New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
April 29, 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • September 26, 2022: Added information about files migrated from floppy disks as well as links to audio recordings.
  • February 13, 2023: Added audio cassette recording of interview with Michel Wieviorka found in New School Archives separate from the rest of the collection. Updated top level extent.