A self-styled "democratic socialist," founder and editor of the radical journal Dissent, and a regular contributor to The New Republic, Howe was professor of English at Hunter College. His first book, Sherwood Anderson (1951), made a substantial impression on his contemporaries and firmly established his reputation as a critic. He wrote several volumes of essays on literary topics---some of these with an emphasis on political commitments---all informed by a sensitive critical intellect. He felt that the fundamental problem with modern culture is that we look for meaning of life outside of it, rather than engaging with social and cultural issues as concerned citizens, active members of civil society. Howe insisted that moderation threatens our social order as much as radicalism because it is "passive, indifferent and atomized." His valuable introduction to The Idea of the Modern in Literature and the Arts (1971) reveals an uncomfortable awareness of the difficulties of modernism and a deep dissatisfaction with the limited role of the contemporary critic. By contrast, Howe wanted criticism to form our tastes, to come to the defense of literacy, and to confirm the ideal of individual imagination. Another of Howe's works, World of Our Fathers (1976), is a look at the lives of Jewish immigrants in New York during the early years of the century.