Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal bears the thoughtful, anxious visage of a man who for four decades has pondered vast social and economic questions. Indeed, Myrdal’s prodigious study in race relations, An American Dilemma, published 30 years ago, has become a social-science landmark for its piercing depiction of racism beneath the mainstream credo of equality. Says Myrdal, now 76, of that watershed work: “The prevailing view of the Negroes then was static and fatalistic. I saw the incipient changes and therefore could see the whole thing break. I love America next to my own country, but it was my duty to be aware of something that was, of course, not very flattering.”
Myrdal was a critic of the Vietnam war and is currently unhappy with U.S. economic policies. But his affection for this country brings him here often; this year he is a visiting professor at the City College of New York. He is also helping to update An American Dilemma. Early this month Myrdal was honored for his “pioneering work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations,” as well as for his eminent social prescience: he received, along with Austrian-born Friedrich von Hayek, the Nobel Prize in Economics.