Ronald Aronson grew up in Detroit and was educated at Wayne State University, U.C.L.A., the University of Michigan, and Brandeis University, where he received a Ph.D. in the History of Ideas. He studied with William Barrett, Page Smith, and Herbert Marcuse. Swept up in the political activism of the 1960s, he became a community organizer in the African American neighborhood of New Brunswick, New Jersey, and an editor of Studies on the Left. He participated in the "Freedom School" organized in the aftermath of the student strike at Columbia University in spring, 1968 as he was completing a doctoral dissertation on "Art and Freedom in the Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre."
He has taught at Wayne State University since 1968, first at Monteith College, and since 1978 in the Interdisciplinary Studies Program. Author or editor of seven books, he is an internationally recognized authority on French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, and has been Chair of the Sartre Society of North America and is currently editor of the journal Sartre Studies International. With support by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1980 he published Jean-Paul Sartre - Philosophy in the World (Verso); the American Council of Learned Societies supported research for his Sartreís Second Critique (University of Chicago Press, 1987). In 1983-4 he was Research Associate at University College London and in 1987 and again in 1990 he was guest lecturer at the University of Natal and other South African universities. The story of his first experience in South Africa, at the height of the struggle to end apartheid, is told in Stay Out of Politics: A Philosopher Views South Africa (Chicago, 1990). Winner of several scholarly and teaching awards at Wayne State, he is a member of the WSU Academy of Scholars, the highest honor bestowed by faculty on their colleagues. His most recent works are After Marxism (Guilford, 1995), and a book-in-progress telling the story of the relationship between Sartre and fellow Nobel Prize-winning writer Albert Camus. He has recently produced national political debates on democratic values and affirmative action (participants have included Cornel West, Barbara Ehrenreich, Abigail Thernstrom, David Frum, and Dinesh DíSouza) and has published articles in Dissent, The Nation, The Yale Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Washington Post, The International Herald-Tribune, and The Times Higher Education Supplement. He is currently co-producing, with Academy Award-nominated film maker Judith Montell, a film biography of legendary Detroit social activist Saul Wellman. One of his lifelong concerns has been to study and write about the nature of political commitment.