Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Same as it ever was

In The Republic, Plato wrote that the penalty good men pay for not being involved in the political process is to be governed by worse men.

In Foreign Policy, Stephen Walt writes

In that particular class, Craig argued that one of the many forces that doomed the Weimar Republic was the irresponsible behavior of both left-wing and right-wing intellectuals. The German left was contemptuous of the liberal aspirations of the Weimar Constitution and other bourgeois features of Weimar society, while right-wing "thinkers" like Ernst Junger glorified violence and disparaged the application of reason to political issues. So-called "liberal" intellectuals saw politics as a grubby business unworthy of their refined sensibilities, and so many just disengaged from politics entirely. This left the field to rabble-rousers and extremists of various sorts and helped prepare the ground for Nazism. (You can read Craig's account of this process in his book Germany 1866-1945, chapter 13, on "Weimar Culture").

The lesson I took from Craig's lecture was that when intellectuals abandon liberal principles, disengage from politics, and generally abdicate their role as "truth-tellers" for society at large, it is easy for demagogues to play upon human fears and lead a society over the brink to disaster. 
via 3 Quarks Daily

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