Moi, Je Suis Marxiste—Tendance Groucho

Roger Kimball has a review of the French philosopher Raymond Aron’s critique of Marxism, The Opium of the Intellectuals at PJ Media. It’s worth reading, especially considering the Marxist leanings of the OWSers.

In his foreword to The Opium of the Intellectuals, Aron noted that he directed his argument “not so much against the Communists as against the communisants,” against those fellow travelers for whom the West is always wrong and who believe that people can “be divided into two camps, one the incarnation of good and the other of evil.”

The primary target of Aron’s polemic was fanaticism. But he also recognized that the defeat of fanaticism often leads to a contrary spiritual sickness, indifference. Both are expressions of the ultimate enemy, nihilism. Skepticism, Aron wrote, is useful or harmful depending on which is more to be feared at the moment: fanaticism or apathy. The intervening faculty that orients us appropriately is practical wisdom, prudence, “the god” (Aron quotes Burke) “of this lower world.”

Aron’s indictment of intellectual intoxication is not the same thing as an indictment of intellectuals. He was not anti-intellectual or contemptuous of ideas. This was not simply because he was an intellectual himself. He clearly discerned the immense power, for good or ill, that ideas can have. “Intellectuals suffer from their inability to alter the course of events,” he noted. “But they underestimate their influence. In a long term sense, politicians are the disciples of scholars or writers.”