Howard I. Schwartz, PhD, (formerly Howard Eilberg-Schwartz) is an author, business executive, consultant, and social critic. His provocative writing is inspired by the unusual journey he has made in his life from seminary to Silicon Valley. Trained originally as a rabbi, he went on to receive a PhD from Brown University, and spent the early part of his career as a professor of religious studies, before moving to the for-profit sector, where he has worked for more than ten years as an executive in the high tech software industry, for both startups and a public company.
As an academic, Schwartz taught religious studies for ten years at a number of institutions of higher learning, including Stanford, Indiana, and Temple Universities. In the discipline of religious studies, Schwartz is known for his thought-provoking interdisciplinary work that questioned standard scholarly conventions. His award winning The Savage in Judaism (Indiana University) has been long recognized as a trend setting work in biblical studies. His widely cited work on the intersection of religion, gender and masculinity, God’s Phallus and Other Problems for Men and Monotheism (Beacon), engaged feminist theorizing and cultural studies in understanding of biblical religious and theological symbolism.
Schwartz’s conflict with the Jewish community over his intellectual positions is part of the fascinating story of how and why he left academia and documented in an essay by Jonathan Mahler called “Howard’s End: Why A Leading Jewish Studies Scholar Gave Up His Academic Career” (Lingua Franca. March 1997:51-57)
Inspired in his more recent works by both his religious studies and business background, Schwartz has turned his interdisciplinary attention to one of the most evocative political concepts of our day, the idea of liberty. Concerned by the way liberty has been appropriated to justify conservative political views of individual rights and free markets, Schwartz questions liberty’s meaning in the myths about America’s founding and its contemporary rhetorical use in political discussions today.
In Liberty in America’s Founding Moment, Schwartz first takes on the view that we can get back to an earlier pure view of liberty in the American founding, by challenging the consensus that the Declaration of Independence, and its author Thomas Jefferson, wholeheartedly embraced the concept of self-evident and natural rights. And now, in his latest text, Beyond Liberty Alone, Schwartz draws on insights from history, philosophy and religion, to question the ways in which the now popular understanding of liberty is destructive to our moral selves and our planet, and to offer a progressive alternative. Motivated by his commitments to social justice and equality, Schwartz takes on the ideological orthodoxies that dominate our key political concepts, from individual rights, labor, and property to the role of government and free markets.
Howard currently lives with his wife in the San Francisco Bay Area where he consults to executives and companies trying to transform their cultures and embrace social good.