Commonplace Book #135

If we keep in mind the fact that the liberals in America are primarily intellectuals by profession and training, one cannot help wondering whether the preoccupation of intellectuals with political questions is not a pathological reaction to the peculiar cultural conditions existing in America.  In no country of the world is there such a tremendous gap between the values recognized by intellectuals and the values that actually govern political and economic realities.  And yet in no country is the intellectual so preoccupied with affecting the course of politics to the exclusion of intellectual interests.  The less the power he has of determining conditions, the more passionate, it would seem, is his will-o’-the-wisp quest of political influence.

It is here that the philosophy of pragmatism is most revealing.  Pragmatism has been wrongly called the philosophy of the practical man.  It represents rather the anti-intellectualism of the American intellectual, who is overawed by the practical sweep of American life.

–Benjamin Ginzburg, “Science Under Communism,” New Republic, January 6, 1932, cited in Christopher Lasch, The New Radicalism in America, 1889-1963, 294-295.