Swans Commentary: Letters to the Editor - letter199



Letters to the Editor

(September 20, 2010)


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From Sarko The American and the demise of France to Glucksmann to Lévy, et al.: The intellectual fraud of the French reactionary "New Philosophers"

To the Editor:

Anyone who cut his teeth on the post WWII debate of ideas in France can be excused for feeling let down by what has come afterward. André Malraux, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Simone de Beauvoir could be wrongheaded but they were serious. Whatever notoriety they had came in the first place from the books they wrote, books that are now landmarks in cultural history. Intellectual life gradually lost its gravity and finally hit bottom in 1977 with the appearance of Les Maîtres Penseurs by André Glucksmann and Bernard-Henri Lévy. The twosome was soon joined by others of their ilk under the complicit media's title of "Les nouveaux philisophes." In their careers notoriety came first via a mimic of combat, TV appearances, clamorous press releases, and hobnobbing with celebrities in glossy magazines. Books from these writers that might remain as landmarks in cultural history failed to appear.

Admirers of French thought couldn't help but feel contempt for the featherweight opportunists who flaunted liberalism as something "new" and were kept in the public eye by the panders of fashion. Now, a professor at New York University, Kristin Ross, has explained, with a lucidity that stuns, how right we were to hold our noses. (See "Ethics and the Rearmament of Imperialism: The French Case" [PDF].) Prof. Ross shows how a group formerly of the left covered its adhesion to the New World Order (globalized, armed capitalism) by hoisting the flag of human rights in the Third World. They no longer saw that world as whole peoples struggling for freedom and sustenance. They picked out individual newsworthy cases of abuse to focus on, a victim here and there. These same former leftists had been militants in the French May of 1968. But their abandonment of Marxism meant they could no longer admit that the 1968 movement had been an unprecedented merging of intellectual and worker contestation. Mass movements they now felt led inevitably to totalitarianism and the gulag. So they began to portray 1968 as a mere counterculture frolic.

Clearly Marxism, whatever one thinks of it, had kept gravitas in the French mind. Sidestepping Marx, who touched basic and worldwide human concerns, the "New Philosophers" tumbled into frivolity. As the young men on the make of 1977 lose their hair and begin to button their shirts over their pot bellies, Kristin Ross files them away in that famous dustbin of history stuffed with the century's other self-justifications.

Peter Byrne
Lecce, Italy - September 17, 2010


Historical Fact? Gilles d'Aymery's Welcome To The Bright Future

To the Editor:

Just wondering whether the author of "Welcome To The Bright Future" has ever considered that maybe, just maybe, Ron Paul's political views are right and his wrong -- that, indeed, smaller government, lower taxes, more freedom, and personal responsibility would go a long way to remedy the ills our country faces.

That I know, countries that have experimented with big governments and high taxes, and abandoned personal responsibility, have eventually lost freedom. The author may wish to ponder this historical fact.


Darrell Johnson
Tempe, Arizona - September 15, 2010


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Published September 20, 2010
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