Scott McLemee At Inside Higher Ed On Bernhard Henri-Levi: Darkness Becomes Him

Full piece here.

Henri-Levi (wikipedia), in the footsteps of De Tocqueville, toured the United States in 2006 to write his book American Vertigo.  As McLemee puts it, he penned a piece in ‘The Nation’ diagnosing the American left:

…as suffering from a sublime desolation. We were trapped in “a desert of sorts, a deafening silence, a cosmic ideological void.”

If only the American left were more like the European left, then Henri-Levy might have been more accurate!  There are many differing philosophical, social, and cultural traditions between (and within) the Anglo, American and French traditions that Levy simply overlooked or hasn’t bothered to understand.

Not quite De Tocqueville.

Yet, to his credit, he has the potential to point out problems and confront issues with moral courage:

“…for one of the two very worst forces in the world, by Lévy’s account, is anti-Americanism. The other is anti-Semitism.”

They could be quite serious.  And:

“…the future menaced by the prospect of barbarism. He is right to worry. But amid his soliloquies, he makes gestures of warning in the wrong direction.”

Barbarism seems like a threat to civilized society pretty much all the time, from within and without.  So where does McLemee suggest Henri-Levy is headed?

“…the legacy of antitotalitarian radicalism. He treats it almost like a family heirloom. But he avoids embracing that tradition’s hostility to capitalism.”


Just a thoughtChristopher Hitchens used to be a rabid Marxist, becoming pretty pro-capitalist, and is still pretty rabidly anti-religious.

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