Leo Panitch, mentor, supporter, and the inspiration behind the creation of the Institute of Political Economy passed away from COVID-19 and pneumonia on December 19, 2020, shortly after a cancer diagnosis. Leo was born in 1945 to a working-class family in the North end of Winnipeg. Following PhD studies at the LSE in England, Leo came to teach at Carleton’s Department of Political Science in 1972.
In short order, Leo’s remarkable intellectual powers, enthusiasm and foresight helped to place Carleton at the forefront of political economy in Canada and to attract many first rate graduate students to the University. He was the lead person behind the creation of the ‘Socialist Seminar’ in 1975, the first regular interdisciplinary forum at the University, and where many of the essays that appeared in his 1977 pathbreaking book The Canadian State: Political Power and Political Economy were first presented.
In 1983 Leo launched the Graduate Summer School of Political Economy, a joint venture between the departments of Political Science and Sociology. Each year the program was organized around a visiting professor who was accompanied by Carleton professors. In 1983 the visiting professor was Guglielmo Carchedi, author of On Economic Identification of Social Classes. In 1984 the visiting professor was his mentor, Ralph Miliband, author of Marxism and Politics and the State in Capitalist Society. In 1985 Leo brought Michele Barret from the City University London and Mary McIntosh, University of Essex, leading socialist feminist scholars, to offer seminars on protective legislation, “family allowances”, the social construction of motherhood and domestic labour.
Leo’s summer school in the early 1980’s inspired his colleagues to later establish a dedicated administrative unit at Carleton to encourage the interdisciplinary study of political economy. Leo was also a founding member of the Journal Studies in Political Economy that for many years operated with an Ottawa based editorial collective that included Wallace Clement, Rianne Mahon, Jane Jenson, Allan Moscovitch, Donald Swartz and Rosemary Warskett.
In 1984 Leo left Carleton for the Political Science Department of York University in Toronto. He served as Chair of the department from 1988 – 1994. In 1994 Leo was inducted in the the Royal Society of Canada and in 2002 he became the Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy at York which he held until his retirement in 2016.
Cristina Rojas, director Institute of Political Economy 2016-2020
[Image By Schuster Gindin, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42041799]