Great personal concerns

How could the Communist Party, a garish political group with no real roots in American life, exercise such a wide influence in the intellectual and professional strata of American life? An intellectual is one who, almost by definition, seeks to understand and express the Zeitgeist. Unlike the scholar, who starts from a given set of objective problems and seeks to fill in the gaps, he begins with his personal concerns, and in the groping for self-consciousness creates intuitive knowledge about the world. The depression and the threat of fascism were the great personal concerns which forced the intellectuals to reconsider their place in the world. At no time in American life, except for a brief period in 1912, had the intelligentsia been recognized as a cohesive social group and given a platform for political articulation: this the communists provided. They gave the intellectuals a status and recognition which they had previously been denied; and to this the intellectuals responded.

–Daniel Bell, Marxian Socialism in the United States (1952; 1996), pp. 152-3


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