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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: tenth anniversary issue

Rexroth, Kenneth
Alienation ,   pp. [55]-60 PDF (6.3 MB)

Page [56]

For years alienation has been the favorite
catchword of the American literary
establishment, as triangulated by the
Partisan Review, Commentary, and the
New York Review of Books. What they
mean is that since they lost their jobs in
Army Intelligence after the war, the
ruling circles of American society have
forgotten they exist and no longer ask
them out.
On the other hand there has been growing
up in Europe of what amounts to a
systematic philosophy or sociology of
alienation. Several intellectual currents have
converged to form what is today a stream
of thought which is practically unchallenged.
Since the publication of the philosophical
notebooks of the young Marx just before the
war, people who broke with the Communist
Party who remained Marxists have come
to emphasize the problem of alienation as
From Kierkegaard to Sartre and
Merleau-Ponty alienation has been a central
concept of the Existentialists. In the
tremendous intellectual upsurge in the
Catholic church which has followed
Pope John's Aggiornamento, modern
Catholics have pointed out what has been
obvious to everyone else for a long time,
that anyone who tries to model his life on
Christ and his Apostles is by definition
alienated from a predatory society.
Today the dialogue between these groups
has begun to be overheard even within the
ranks of the European Communist parties,
most especially the Italian, Czech and
Polish. The unorthodox Yugoslavians have,
of course, been leaders in the movement
for a long time. This whole discussion is
certainly where the intellectual life is
today in Europe, but it has had little
influence in America. Even theoretical
Socialist magazines like Dissent or
Libertarian ones like Liberation devote little
or no space to it and the middle brow
magazines are aggressively unaware of its
Partly this is due to the American theory
that general ideas are the exclusive
province of college professors, hired to
teach them for grades or theses. Partly
it is the American and particularly the
American labor movement's disinterest ir.
anything but bread and butter issues, anc

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