C.L.R. James on the (Post)Modern Intellectual (1950)

The rationalism of the bourgeoisie has ended in the Stalinist one-party bureaucratic-administrative state of the Plan. In their repulsion from this rationalism and from the proletarian revolution, the middle classes fall back upon the barbarism of Fascism. The anti-Stalinist, anti-capitalist petty-bourgeois intellectuals, themselves the victims of the absolute division between mental and physical labor, do not know where to go or what to do. Unable to base themselves completely upon the modern proletariat, they turn inward, pursuing a self-destructive, soul-searching analysis of their own isolation, alienation and indecision. They too appropriate the Hegelian dialectic, interpreting it as an unceasing conflict in the individual between affirmation and negation, between deciding for and deciding against.

These intellectuals are the most cultivated in the modern world, in the sense of knowing the whole past of human culture. Having achieved what the idealism of Hegel posed as the Absolute, they are undergoing a theoretical disintegration without parallel in human history. In France this disintegration has assumed the form of a literary movement, Existentialism. In America it takes the form of a mania for psychoanalysis, reaching in to all layers of society but nowhere more than among the most urbane, sensitive and cultivated intellectuals. In Germany the intellectuals cannot choose between Christian humanism and psychoanalysis, whether guilt or sickness is the root of the German catastrophe. This is total unreason, the disintegration of a society without values or perspective, the final climax to centuries of division of labor between the philosophers and the proletarians.


SOURCE: State Capitalism And World Revolution, by C.L.R. James in collaboration with Raya Dunayevskaya & Grace Lee, with a new introduction by Paul Buhle (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company, 1986); p. 128. For the complete chapter from which this quote is taken, see: Philosophy & State Capitalism.


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C.L.R. James on West Indian Writers vs. T.S. Eliot & Jean-Paul Sartre: the New World & the Old

Marx on Capital, Machinery, Universality, Descartes: From Worship to Instrumentalization of Nature

Descartes & Marxism: Selected Bibliography

Positivism vs Life Philosophy (Lebensphilosophie) Study Guide

Philosophy and the Division of Labor: Selected Bibliography

The Philosophy of Theory and Practice: Selected Bibliography

Marx and Marxism Web Guide

For more on this site, see:
100 Years of C.L.R. James


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