The Opium of the Intellectuals

The Opium of the Intellectuals

4.01 (133 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author)  , Introduction by  , Foreword by  , Foreword by 

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Raymond Aron's 1955 masterpiece The Opium of the Intellectuals, is one of the great works of twentieth- century political reflection. Aron shows how noble ideas can slide into the tyranny of -secular religion- and emphasizes how political thought has the profound responsibility of telling the truth about social and political reality-in all its mundane imperfections and tragic complexities. Aron explodes the three -myths- of radical thought: the Left, the Revolution, and the Proletariat. Each of these ideas, Aron shows, are ideological, mystifying rather than illuminating. He also provides a fascinating sociology of intellectual life and a powerful critique of historical determinism in the classically restrained prose for which he is justly famous. For this new edition, prepared by Daniel J. Mahoney and Brian C. Anderson as part of Transaction's ongoing -Aron Project, - political scientist Harvey Mansfield provides a luminous introduction that underscores the permanent relevance of Aron's work. The new edition also includes as an appendix -Fanaticism, Prudence, and Faith, - a remarkable essay that Aron wrote to defend Opium from its critics and to explain further his view of the proper role of political thinking. The book will be of interest to all students of political theory, history, and more

Product details

  • Paperback | 388 pages
  • 152 x 228 x 28mm | 580.6g
  • Transaction Publishers
  • Somerset, NJ, United States
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • black & white illustrations
  • 0765807009
  • 9780765807007
  • 296,347

Review quote

-Raymond Aron's analysis of French intellectual culture of the 1940s and 1950s retains its relevance inot the 21st century, helping to illuminate the minds of intellectuals so that we can understand their penchant for irrational utopianism. Althought the particular controversies have changed somewhat, our modern intellectuals partake of the same opium.- - Ideas on Libertyshow more

Review Text

The author of The Century of Total War (1954) issues another challenge to world thinking in this timely dissection of current political divisions. As a French journalist, his comments on the politico-philosophical scenes of East and West are within the frame of reference generally of western Europe and France in particular. He shows that the relatively new allegiance of the Intelligentsia to the Left is born of three myths: the Right as traditionally the voice of reaction, the efficacy of the Revolution, and the Proletariat as the new savior class. He demonstrates the development of these myths is the result of visionary, idealistic thinking, solidified in nostalgic hindsight. Aiding and abetting the construction of the myths has been a particular interpretation of history, borrowed from the Churchmen and developed by Hegel- the idea of a Plan of History, which was best put to use by Marxists applying the idea as a rationalization of their political and economic policies. The choice, from the swing of events, open to the intellectuals, lies between - on the one hand, conforming to and being smothered by a system which extols the State as the bearer of all values or, on the other hand maintaining a condition of alienation, in the long run an imperiled condition. It is to those who will have no fanatic commitment, the skeptics, that Aron turns for a re-direction of thought. A valuable book (not because it supplies another solution but because it asks the right questions) for those concerned with the modern development of political thought. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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133 ratings
4.01 out of 5 stars
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4 37% (49)
3 26% (34)
2 2% (2)
1 2% (2)
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