The Company of Critics: Social Criticism and Political Commitment in the Twentieth Century

Michael Walzer, Author
Michael Walzer, Author Basic Books $19.95 (260p) ISBN 978-0-465-01331-9
Reviewed on: 09/01/1988
Release date: 09/01/1988
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. (September)
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