[Reprinted from The University of Chicago Law Review (Spring 1949), pp. 417-420, 421-423, 425-433,
by permission of the author and the publisher, The University of Chicago Press; George B. de Huszar ed.,
The Intellectuals: A Controversial Portrait (Glencoe, Illinois: the Free Press, 1960) pp. 371-84. The
pagination of this edition corresponds to the Huszar edited volume.]
In all democratic countries, in the United States even more than elsewhere, a
strong belief prevails that the influence of the intellectuals on politics is negligible. This
is no doubt true of the power of intellectuals to make their peculiar opinions of the
moment influence decisions, of the extent to which they can sway the popular vote on
questions on which they differ from the current views of the masses. Yet over
somewhat longer periods they have probably never exercised so great an influence as
they do today in those countries. This power they wield by shaping public opinion.
In the light of recent history it is somewhat curious that this decisive power of
the professional secondhand dealers in ideas should not yet be more generally
recognized. The political development of the Western World during the last hundred
years furnishes the clearest demonstration. Socialism has never and nowhere been at
first a working-class movement. It is by no means an obvious remedy for the obvious
evil which the interests of that class will necessarily demand. It is a construction of
theorists, deriving from certain tendencies of abstract thought with which for a long
time only the intellectuals were familiar; and it required long efforts by the intellectuals
before the working classes could be persuaded to adopt it as their program.
In every country that has moved toward socialism, the phase of the development
in which socialism becomes a determining influence on politics has been preceded for
many years by a period during which socialist ideals governed the thinking of the more
active intellectuals. In Germany this stage had been reached toward the end of the last
century; in England and France, about the time of the first World War. To the casual
observer it would seem as if the United States had reached this phase after World War II
and that the attractio n of a planned and directed economic system is now as strong
among the American intellectuals as it ever was among their German or English
fellows. Experience suggests that, once this phase has been reached, it is merely a
question of time until the views now held by the intellectuals become the governing
force of politics...
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