The role of the intellectual in “backward”— that is, largely non-industrial—societies has been one of the major themes of the twentieth century. This is not surprising, since no previous period of history has opened the road to power to so many practitioners of ideas—though in societies in which literacy has been rather problematical. As a matter of fact, one of the principal ways the “underdeveloped” (or, as we now say, “developing”) world differs from Western Europe and the United States is the almost sacerdotal role assigned to individual writers, poets, playwrights, historians, and philosophers. The contrast between that situation and our own could not be starker, and it provokes much anguish in our literary papers. Look at Senegal, we are typically reproached by critics of our own (rather less philosophical) political class, there they have (or had) a...


New to The New Criterion?

Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.

Popular Right Now