Classics and Commercials: A Literary Chronicle of the Forties

By Edmund Wilson | Go to book overview

BERNARD SHAW ON THE TRAINING
OF A STATESMAN

Everybody's Political What's What?, by Bernard Shaw, is a supplement rather than a companion piece to The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism. The Guide came out in 1928 when the author was seventy-two and his mind was still in perfectly good working order; the What's What? appears sixteen years later, when Bernard Shaw is eighty-eight and his powers show signs of failing. There is nothing in this new book like the clear line of thought that made the Guide a great piece of exposition, and nothing so eloquent as its magnificent peroration on the evils of capitalism. The What's What? is not, in fact, an expository work at all in the same sense that the earlier book was. It is a treatise on a classical model that was popular in the Renaissance, when Castiglione wrote his Courtier and Machiavelli his Prince. Shaw might have called his book The Statesman, because its subject is the education of the ideal statesman of the future.

The old-fashioned ideal of democracy--one man, one vote--says Shaw, must today be regarded as discredited. It was inevitable that the modern dictators, who wanted to get something done, should sweep aside the impotent parliaments. But what we need--ie., what England needs--are a new class of public servants, specially

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