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Obituary: John Kautsky, professor emeritus of political science, 91

John H. Kautsky, professor emeritus of political science in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, died Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013. He was 91.

Kautsky was born in Vienna, Austria on March 5, 1922. He left Austria in 1938 and, after a short stay in England, settled in the United States in 1939. After service in the U.S. Army, he attended college on the GI Bill, receiving bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Chicago and later a doctorate in political science from Harvard University.

Kautsky worked in the U.S. State Department before joining the faculty at Washington University in St. Louis in 1955. He retired as professor emeritus in 1988, but remained active in the department, teaching numerous courses and hosting a regular lunchtime crowd in his office.

“His office was considered ‘the lunchroom’ as it was often the place where faculty congregated at noon,” said William Lowry, PhD, professor of political science and a colleague of Kautsky's here for several decades.

“The conversations were lively, humorous and engaging. Much of that tone was the result of John's good nature and clever wit. He and his wife, Lilli, were also very gracious people who had an appetite for good conversation and hiking in scenic places like Banff.”

Kautsky also made a strong impression on Andrew Sobel, PhD, professor of international and area studies in Arts & Sciences. Kautsky already had retired when Sobel joined the political science faculty here, but Sobel still recalls him as both a tremendous colleague and inspiration.

"John hosted informal discussions among some of the best minds in political science at that time, but he could easily hold his own in terms of quick exchange and analysis," Sobel recalls. "He was an unusual and a great colleague in so many ways, one whom I was lucky to have as a colleague, but it will be his sparkling intellectualism mixed with humor, sarcasm, and caring that I'll remember most."

During his distinguished career, Kautsky wrote numerous books and articles, primarily in the field of the politics of developing countries. His more important books include: Political Change in Underdeveloped Countries; The Political Consequences of Modernization, Communism and the Politics of Development; The Politics of Aristocratic Empires; and Social Democracy and the Aristocracy.

He also authored a book on his grandfather, Karl Kautsky, a preeminent Social Democrat and Marxist theoretician of the early 20th century in Germany and Austria: Karl Kautsky, Marxism, Revolution & Democracy.

The family has requested that memorial gifts be made to Amnesty International or Doctors without Borders.


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