Edward S. Herman, Wharton

caption:Edward S. Herman

Edward S. Herman, emeritus professor of finance at the Wharton School, died on November 11. He was 92 years old.

Dr. Herman was born in Philadelphia to a family of liberal Democrats. He studied economics at the University of Pennsylvania, receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees, before finding a mentor in Robert A. Brady, a University of California at Berkeley professor who analyzed the economic systems of fascist societies. Dr. Herman received a doctorate in economics at Berkeley in 1953. He joined Penn in 1958 as a lecturer and he became an associate professor in 1961 and a professor in 1970. He retired in 1989 as professor emeritus. He was an economist and media analyst with a specialty in corporate and regulatory issues, as well as political economy. 

He criticized “humanitarian wars” in Iraq and Vietnam, and lambasted mainstream media outlets. Dr. Herman was an economist who collaborated with scholar and political activist Noam Chomsky on blistering critiques of U.S. foreign policy and the mass media, most influentially with their book Manufacturing Consent in 1988. It was adapted into a 1992 documentary of the same name. They also wrote The Political Economy of Human Rights and Counter-Revolutionary Violence. Compilation of his work, The Myth of the Liberal Media: An Edward Herman Reader, with Robert W. McChesney, was published in 1999. More recently they collaborated on The Washington Connection and Third World Facism and After the Cataclysm, both in 2015. 

Dr. Herman was “one of the top progressive media critics,” said Jeff Cohen, founder of the left-leaning media watch group FAIR. In large part, his eminence was a result of his collaboration with Dr. Chomsky. Both men were academics—Dr. Herman was an expert on banking and corporate power structures; Dr. Chomsky was a pathbreaking linguist—who became political dissidents during the Vietnam War.

Dr. Herman received primary credit for the book, which outlined a “propaganda model” of American mass media, arguing that news coverage was shaped largely by “market forces, internalized assumptions and self-censorship.”

Dr. Herman’s wife of 67 years, the former Mary Woody, died in 2013. Dr. Herman married Christine Abbott, a longtime friend, two years later. In addition to his wife, survivors include a brother, Harris.