The Marxist sociologist, William DiFazio, died March 10, 2020, at the age of 72 from complications related to diabetes. I met Bill in 1975 when we were both students at the CUNY Graduate Center. We remained friends for the next 45 years.
Bill DiFazio wrote three books:
- Longshoremen: Community and Resistance On The Brooklyn Waterfront (1985),
- The Jobless Future (with Stanley Aronowitz, 1995)
- Ordinary Poverty: A Little Food and Cold Shelter (2005).
He hosted a popular radio show called City Watch on WBAI from 2000-2016, where he interviewed community activists as well as radical intellectuals. There is a Wikipedia page for Bill, “William DeFazio.”
Bill contributed to a number of journals, including Social Text and Situations, where he served on the editorial board. At the time of his death, he was writing a book to be called, Conversations in Diners: Ordinary People and The Crisis in Capitalism.
Bill DiFazio was a popular teacher at St. Johns in Queens, New York. He served as Chair of the Sociology Department at St. Johns for six years. He also volunteered at a food program run by St. Johns in Brooklyn for several years, where he did the fieldwork for, Ordinary Poverty. Bill’s method of doing sociological research was called, “theoretical ethnography,” which differs from the standard type of ethnography done by most sociologists in the stress Bill placed on theoretical analysis. Both Longshoremen and Ordinary Poverty are clearly examples of theoretical ethnography.
When Bill was a student at the CUNY Graduate Center, he studied with George Fischer, Mike Brown, Bill Kornblum, and Stanley Aronowitz. He participated in study groups that met in Mike Brown’s office for several years: beginning with Capital and then moving on to contemporary political economy. We went to parties at Bill’s apartment in Williamsburg. The justification for the parties was to celebrate someone’s Dissertation Defense, birthday, or life itself! Bill joined DSA before it was the popular thing to do. In the 1960s, he joined SDS, went to demonstrations against the Vietnam War, and gave his support to the Civil Rights movement – joining CORE and SNCC’s voting rights projects in the South. Bill was what Sartre called, an engaged intellectual.
Bill DiFazio is survived by his wife, Susan Heller, a Brooklyn artist, and his daughter, Liegia DiFazio, an attorney in Atlanta.