Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Jean-Francois Revel, RIP

In this morning’s WSJ, the editors remember Jean-Francois Revel, one of the few European public intellectuals of the 20th century who refused to embrace totalitarianism of either the Left or the Right.

Revel’s judgments were not unfailing, and in retrospect he was overly pessimistic about the ability of Western democracies to muster the will and courage to defeat their existential enemies. But by sounding the right warnings about the nature of those enemies -- and the places where our defenses were weak -- he not only helped win the Cold War, but redeemed the reputation of public intellectuals everywhere.

Discussions - 2 Comments

One of my favorites on the French Revolution and totalitarianism was Francois Furet, who wrote excellent histories of those "illusions" before his death.

Revel was good, but most "public intellectuals" are still awful. One man cannot "redeem" the reputation of a bad group. It is far from clear that Revel had any long-term influence among his peers. He was just a good example, but good examples don’t matter much unless a lot of people follow them.

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