Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Daniel Bell (May 10, 1919)

At the time of Daniel Bell's death in January of this year, I learned quite a bit about his influence and accomplishments, of which I had little prior awareness. He was a member of a circle of American Jewish intellectuals including Irving Kristol, Irving Howe, and Nathan Glazer.

According to his obituary in the New York Times, Bell had the religious trajectory typical of many intellectual Jews in his generation: he became a nonbeliever and a socialist at the time of his Bar Mitzvah, and later became part of a secular Marxist leftist Jewish circle at City College of New York including Kristol, Howe, and Glazer.

The Times Literary Supplement (London) ranked two of Bell’s books, “The End of Ideology” and the “Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism” among the 100 most influential books since World War II. He was a leader in liberal and left-wing thought for many years, and participated in active discussions of ideology as the prominent associates of his youth moved far to the right.

From his obituary:

"Indeed, for all the ideological wars he had witnessed, Mr. Bell disdained labels, particularly as they were applied to him. Over the years he would offer his own political profile, declaring what he called his 'triune' view of himself: 'a socialist in economics, a liberal in politics and a conservative in culture.'"

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