The Importance of Being Radical

The Importance of Being Radical

The question, why be radical?, is more urgent today than in those more stringent times when radicalism tended to be instinctive. Especially for the intellectual who finds easy employment in a time of know-how-to-no-purpose, the question is pressing and doubly pressing if he was of the generation of the 1930s. It is tempting not to be radical today as a simple means by which the intellectual firebrand of the 1930s can rid himself of a past which seemingly clutters up the present. Yet the question remains. And if there are many reasons to justify radicalism, for an intellectual who carries the imprint of the 1930s there is one necessity which now seems especially relevant—the necessity of asserting the values of an intellectual way of life.

Today radicalism has the appearance of quaintness. And indeed, why not? Stickily entangled in the cocoon of Republican prosperity and Democratic mediocrity, one may feel it difficult to credit the relevance of radicalism to the 1930s, let alone to the 1950s.

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Lima