The Company of Critics provides a fascinating survey of the terrain of social criticism in the last century. Organizing the book as a series of eleven intellectual biographies, Michael Walzer tells not just the dramatic story of the cultural and political radical but also the more personal story of the meaning of criticism to the critic. By looking at the life and work of Julien Benda, Randolph Bourne, Martin Buber, Antonio Gramsci, Ignazio Silone, George Orwell, Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, Herbert Marcuse, Michel Foucault, and Breyten Breytenbach, Walzer explains the role of the public intellectual in the context of what he identifies as "the triumphs and catastrophes of our time: the two world wars, the struggles of the working class, national liberation, feminism, totalitarian politics."The new edition, featuring a new preface, contains Walzer's thoughts on his own role as a public intellectual and, most important, the challenges that lie ahead for the engaged social critic. With its unique emphasis on life as a proving ground for thought, The Company of Critics is a necessary addition to the literature of social and political engagement both within and outside of the academy.
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Michael Walzer is Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, and the author of many widely heralded books, including Spheres of Justice, Exodus and Revolution, and The Company of Critics, all available from Basic Books. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.From Publishers Weekly:
In the minds of many, the ideal social critic is a detached hero who, like Albert Camus, breaks loose to view his own society from the outside. The author rejects this image, insisting that only the passionately committed "connected critic" can effectively challenge the prevailing culture. The 11 critics whom Walzer (a social scientist at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study) spotlights in this dense, rewarding study include Martin Buber, a Zionist critical of Jewish nationalism; American WW I pacifist Randolph Bourne; Simone de Beauvoir; French antifascist Julien Benda; and Camusa good man in a bad time, but no hero, in Walzer's estimate. The author views distance as a fatal critical flaw, and he uses aloof sages Herbert Marcuse and Michel Foucault as cases in point. He also considers exiled South African writer Breyten Breytenbach, struggling to deny his marginal status as he thunders against apartheid while sitting in Parisian cafes.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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