Feb 4, 2004

The Failure of the New York Intellectuals
"There are three parts to a tradition: the reception, the possession, and the passing. A tradition is something that has come to us, that we have made our own, and that we will deliver to those who follow us. Tradition is a happening, as Calvin Seerveld said. It is a handing, a having, and a handing on. A tradition is a contract between our ancestors, ourselves, and our posterity. As such, it passes through these three phases of reception as it makes the journey through the generations. Tradition functions to compile the past into the present, telling us what to do now, and to continue compiling through now into the future, letting the future be instructed by now. A tradition shrinks and grows, but it is an ever-moving thing, always already an inheritance.

The New York Intellectuals moved smoothly and successfully through the first two phrases of a tradition and, sputtering and floundering, completely missed the third. At the end of the day, the movement found itself without successors, and in this way the movement failed."

My article on political vision and the failure of the New York Intellectuals has been published by Gideon Strauss' Comment Magazine and is online.

See also the interesting articles by James Brink and Rick Capezza.