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Three Intellectuals in Politics: Blum, Rathenau, Marinetti by James Joll (72,000 words)

“Léon Blum [1872-1950], Walther Rathenau [1867-1922] and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti [1876-1944] were all men who had made careers in other fields before they entered political life. They were all men who were aware that the development of machines and of mechanised industry had created a new age; and they were all concerned to come to terms with it. Moreover, they all belonged to a European intellectual and artistic world that was truly international, and, although they never met, they had friends and acquaintances in common. They were all men of ideas who were, in one way or another, compelled to go into politics because of the intellectual position they had reached. All three experienced the difficulties and frustrations which confront the man of theory in the world of practice; and all of them suffered as a result of becoming politicians. Entry into politics led to Rathenau’s death; it endangered Blum’s life and made nonsense of Marinetti’s...

The careers of all three men raise the question of how far a man of intelligence or imagination, sensibility or originality, independence or scrupulousness can in fact stand up to the strain of the ruthless machine-politics of the twentieth century, and whether the intellectual in politics is not always going to be doomed to failure because of the nature of his own virtues...

This book is... an attempt to give accounts of the character, ideas and influence of three Europeans, born into the apparently stable world of middle class commerce and industry in the second half of the nineteenth century, who realised that that world was changing, understood the nature of the changes and helped influence their course.” — James Joll, Introduction,
Three Intellectuals in Politics


“[E]ach individual study [is] an admirable vignette... Joll is a master of the — today — rarely practiced art of essay. He includes everything worth knowing about a man within a brief compass: he possesses an unerring eye for the telling detail along with the significant generalization; he combines subjective sympathy with objective criticism in dealing with very different types of men. He writes an excellent style and wears his scholarship lightly.” — Klaus Epstein,
Jewish Social Studies

“Each essay is in itself first-rate. This is the political generation that first came to grips with the advanced technology produced by the industrial revolution, that first st”ruggled with the social problems ensuing from this technology, that came to political maturity during the first great technological war of our era, and that lived on to see at least the shadow of a second. Furthermore, as intellectuals, these men are three unusually articulate representatives of that generation. Being, at the same time, three very diffèrent men — as different, Joll suggests, as the nations that produced them — they can be seen to constitute three aspects of European man encountering the twentieth century.” — Ronald Sanders,
The New Leader

“Professor Joll’s broad use of the words ‘politics’ and ‘intellectual’ is more than justified by the intrinsic interest of the lives of these three men and their usefulness as introductions to the political and cultural atmosphere of France, Germany, and Italy in the early twentieth century.” — John Ratte,
Commonweal

“Léon Blum, Walther Rathenau, and F. T. Marinetti are the subjects of separate biographic essays here. No matter what heights they reached in elective or appointive office, it is peculiar that none of these men was able to fulfill his socio-economic aspirations or influence his countrymen to do so during his lifetime... None of the three is remembered for what he considered his best achievements, and each suffered the humility of recognizing his own failure and impotence. This is not a book of hero stories... These essays are valuable principally for their historical perspective on the era between the wars.” —
Kirkus Reviews