Intellectuals in Politics: From the Dreyfus Affair to the Rushdie Affair

Intellectuals in Politics: From the Dreyfus Affair to the Rushdie Affair

Intellectuals in Politics: From the Dreyfus Affair to the Rushdie Affair

Intellectuals in Politics: From the Dreyfus Affair to the Rushdie Affair

Synopsis

After an introduction to the major issues confronting intellectuals, this book explores the various aspects of the intellectual's role including: * philosophers and academics who have tried to define the function of the intellectual * how intellectuals have assumed the status of the conscience of the nation and the voice of the oppressed * the interaction of intellectuals with Marxism * the place of the intellectual in American society Covering regions as diverse as Israel, Algeria, Britain, Ireland, central Europe and America, this collection considers the question of whether the intellectual can still lay claim to the language of truth. In answering, this study tells us much about the modern world in which we live. Coverage includes the following thinkers: Gramsci, Weber, Yeats, Auden, Levy, Mailer, Walzer, Marx and many more.

Excerpt

Tsahal, Claude Lanzmann’s film about the Israeli army, ends with a freeze frame of a gentle young armoured corps instructor sitting on an enormous tank. This army officer, whose face is meant to radiate intelligence, is wearing the round wire-rimmed glasses associated with intellectuals. the shot, encapsulating the film’s visual paean to the new Jewish warriors, is intended to show audiences that, although these soldiers’ main business is war, the hereditary intellectuality of the ‘progeny’ of Marx, Freud and Einstein is discernible even in the young face of an armoured corps soldier. the strong State of Israel has become the last imaginary refuge from the impossibility of universalism. Yet the main accomplishment of Zionist settlement has been to transform part of the ‘People of the Book’ into a nation in which, after many hardships, the position of ‘men of letters’ is not very different from that assigned to them in other modern cultures.

Some hundred years before Tsahal, Theodor Herzl wrote The State of the Jews. Like every other nationalism of the modern age, Zionism arose primarily from intellectual milieux that were typical of the end of the nineteenth century. Herzl, the originator of the idea of Jewish political sovereignty, was a successful journalist and an unsuccessful playwright. Max Nordau, his right-hand man and the Trotsky of the Zionist revolution, was one of the most popular and outrageous cultural critics in turn-of-the-century Europe. the Biluists, the emigration movement which arose in Russia after the 1881 pogroms and which preceded political Zionism, was composed mainly of university and high-school students; and up until the First World War the Zionist movement itself was constituted for the most part by a young intelligentsia. It was not until after that war, with the rise of Nazism and the establishment of the State of Israel, that Jewish nationalism began to attract a more socially diversified population.

That the intellectual was an early agent of national culture should not surprise us. in most nationalist movements of both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ‘men of ideas’ were the first ambassadors of modernization involved in the process of shaping collective identities. Precisely because of the abstract nature of national consciousness, at the outset cohesive intellectual groups were needed to take upon themselves the

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