James Burnham and the Struggle for the World

James Burnham and the Struggle for the World

by Daniel Kelly
     
 
From his pre-World War II days as Leon Trotsky's leading American apologist to his postwar role as mentor to William F. Buckley Jr. at National Review, James Burnham (1905-1987) was, at different times, one of America's most important intellectuals on both the Left and Right of the political spectrum. This meticulously researched volume, the first full-length

Overview

From his pre-World War II days as Leon Trotsky's leading American apologist to his postwar role as mentor to William F. Buckley Jr. at National Review, James Burnham (1905-1987) was, at different times, one of America's most important intellectuals on both the Left and Right of the political spectrum. This meticulously researched volume, the first full-length biography of Burnham, should establish him as one of the twentieth century's outstanding thinkers.

In 1929, Burnham accepted a teaching post in the New York University philosophy department as an Oxford-trained Thomist. Under the tutelage of his friend and colleague Sidney Hook, Burnham soon developed Marxist sympathies. He became a dedicated follower of Leon Trotsky and a leading organizer of various communist political parties. But in 1940 Burnham broke with Trotskyism and began a slow journey to the Right, moving beyond the residual Marxism of his fellow Partisan Review intellectuals to become a founding editor at National Review. He would remain at Buckley's magazine until stricken by a debilitating stroke in 1978.

As Daniel Kelly's absorbing biography makes clear, Burnham's political and intellectual influence was far-reaching. In his books, articles, and columns, Burnham foresaw the rise of the bureaucratic "managerial state"; he warned of the advent of an imperial presidency; and he was an astute geopolitical analyst who issued dire warnings about the degeneration-or "suicide," as one of his most famous books put it-of the West. George Orwell was both attracted to and disturbed by his work. Ezra Pound was moved to write him. Arthur Koestler and André Malraux, among many others, befriended him.

As Richard Brookhiser once observed, Burnham was arguably the first neoconservative. His modern, empirical, and secular mode of thought, combined with his fervent anticommunism-Burnham was, for example, intimately involved with the CIA-orchestrated Congress for Cultural Freedom-foreshadowed the methods and concerns displayed by the neoconservatives during their intellectual ascendancy in the 1960s and 1970s.

Including fascinating vignettes involving characters as diverse as Dwight Macdonald, Lionel Trilling, and Whittaker Chambers, Kelly's lively and definitive narrative must be read not only by those interested in the life of this seminal conservative thinker and Cold War strategist, but also by anyone who wants a better understanding of the forces behind the most important ideological clash of the modern age.


About the Author

Daniel Kelly taught modern European history at New York University's Washington Square College and York College of the City University of New York for three decades until his retirement in 1996. Richard Brookhiser is a senior editor at National Review, a columnist for the New York Observer, and author of numerous books, including Alexander Hamilton, American.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
One of the fascinating secrets that emerged when Russia opened up the Party Central archives was the influential role of Inessa Armand, Lenin's paramour and confidante. Michael Pearson (The Sealed Train) draws on declassified documents, family papers and interviews with Armand's descendants to piece together Lenin's Mistress: The Life of Inessa Armand. Fluent in four languages, an accomplished pianist and mother of four by her wealthy Muscovite husband, Armand was jailed a number of times for her own revolutionary activities. Pearson focuses mostly on the postrevolutionary period, when Armand, close to both Lenin and his wife, was widely understood to be the most powerful woman in Moscow. (April) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781882926763
Publisher:
ISI Books
Publication date:
07/28/2002
Pages:
475
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 2.00(d)

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What People are saying about this

Paul Hollander
James Burnham-a major figure of the conservative movement in the United States-was an original and influential thinker and activist of unpredictable opinions and wide ranging interests. This well deserved, illuminating and well organized biography will acquaint the reader with both his life and ideas while providing a rich social-historical analysis of his times. A most helpful volume for understanding the pro- and anti-communist movements and their major representatives in American society during much of the past century.
— author of, Political Pilgrims, Anti-Americanism, and Decline and Fall of Soviet Communism
Arnold Beichman
Here is a remarkable life story of an American intellectual's odyssey in the twentieth century. This biography of Jim Burnham recounts the seven decade global struggle between totalitarianism and democracy and makes for fascinating reading. The author has done a noteworthy job of chronicling the circumambient ideas and ideologies of the time, an achievement which validates the book's title. A superb intellectual history, the book deserves to be high on academic reading lists.
— author of Anti-American Myths: Their Causes and Consequences.

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