Independent in All Things, Neutral in Nothing

Posts Tagged ‘John Maynard Keynes

Review: Tony Judt and Timothy Snyder, Thinking the Twentieth Century

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After publishing Postwar in 2005, a tour de force of European history since World War II, winning the Arthur Ross Book Award for best book in international affairs and numerous other awards, Tony Judt prepared to write an ambitious intellectual and cultural history of Twentieth Century social thought. A professor of European History at New York University, founder and director of the Erich Maria Remarque Institute at NYU, frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, and public intellectual, Judt’s plan for his next book mothballed, as personal history intervened in the form of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. By late 2008, Judt no longer had use of his hands; two years later, he passed away. Read the rest of this entry »


On the Unfortunate Decline of the Idea and the Public Intellectual

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Concomitant with the rise of new forms of mass media are new tools for expressing one’s opinion—on everything, but especially political matters.  Twitter, Facebook, other social media sites and the Internet in general now make it easy to eviscerate traditional media’s role in opinion dissemination and political commentary: to wit, the guardians of quality, allowing for the distinction, as it were, between good art and bad artifice.  To be sure, mass media affords the common American a hitherto unprecedented voice in American politics, not to mention an opportunity to stay informed at a high level, but it also thrusts her into the position of political commentator, whose opinions we value often at a level previously reserved for the public intellectual, the social commentator, or the essayist (a long lost art after George Orwell).  Doubtless, mass media has opened the space for the culture of political “pundits,” operatives, commentators, polling experts, psephologists, and strategists.  Indeed, these individuals inhabit our airwaves, engaging in their pseudo-intellectual vocation, caviling and carping over trifling matters—the tie someone sported and the “message” it either consciously or subconsciously sent, the meaning of an official’s particular gesticulations as she delivered a speech, or the recent “beltway” canards and calumnies—with the constant benefit of infallible hindsight.  While the American polity chugs along with historic problems, one finds these ubiquitous individuals continually missing the forest for the trees. Read the rest of this entry »