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Treason Of The Intellectuals, The / Edition 1

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Overview

Julien Benda’s classic study of 1920s Europe resonates today. The “treason of the intellectuals” is a phrase that evokes much but is inherently ambiguous. The book bearing this title is well known but little understood. This edition is introduced by Roger Kimball.

From the time of the pre-Socratics, intellectuals were a breed apart. They were non-materialistic knowledge-seekers who believed in a universal humanism and represented a cornerstone of civilized society. According to Benda, this all began to change in the early twentieth century. In Europe in the 1920s, intellectuals began abandoning their attachment to traditional philosophical and scholarly ideals, and instead glorified particularisms and moral relativism.

The “treason” of which Benda writes is the betrayal by the intellectuals of their unique vocation. He criticizes European intellectuals for allowing political commitment to insinuate itself into their understanding of the intellectual vocation, ushering the world into “the age of the intellectual organization of political hatreds.” From the savage flowering of ethnic and religious hatreds in the Middle East and throughout Europe today to the mendacious demand for political correctness and multiculturalism on college campuses everywhere in the West, the treason of the intellectuals continues to play out its unedifying drama.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“It is rich, quirky, erudite, digressive, and polemical. . . . Partisan in its claims for disinterestedness, it is ruthless in its defense of intellectual high-mindedness. . . . [G]iven the horrific events that unfolded in the decades following its publication, Benda’s unremitting attack on the politicization of the intellect and ethnic separatism cannot but strike us as prescient. And given the continuing echo in our own time of the problems he anatomized, the relevance of his observations to our situation can hardly be doubted.” —Roger Kimball, The New Criterion
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781412806237
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/15/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 204
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Meet the Author

Julien Benda (1867–1956) was a novelist and critic. Among his other books are The Yoke of Pity and Uriel’s Report.

Roger Kimball is co-editor and publisher of The New Criterion, president and publisher of Encounter Books, and an art critic for the London Spectator and National Review.

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Table of Contents

Introduction to the Transaction Edition Translator’s Note Author’s Foreword 1 The Modern Perfecting of Political Passions 2 Significance of this Movement—Nature of Political Passions 3 The “Clerks”—The Great Betrayal 4 Summary—Predictions Notes

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Customer Reviews

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  • Posted January 4, 2013

    An hysterical, historical oddity

    Benda is very exercised about something, but I defy any reader to figure out exactly what. It has something to do with nationalism, rationalism, France, Germany, politics, science, populism, hypocrisy, the disaster of WWI and the runup to WWII. Anyone today would likely find similar material in endless blog posts across fifty Usenet forums. Benda is in high dudgeon because he's in favor of more good and less bad.

    The book itself is just photo-reproduced pages of a (much) earlier typeset, the text is actually quite brief. The contents often refer to contemporary (1923) and historical French events that few modern (and non-French) readers are going to understand in the least, but generally the message comes through.

    There are occassional lines that seem to apply to our modern situation - such as the title! Shouldn't our intellectual leaders know better? Haven't they sold out to the mob? Well of course they have! At least reading Benda you find it's no new thing.

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