“The twentieth century,” Tony Judt asserts in this luminous book of conversations with the Yale historian Timothy Snyder, “is the century of the intellectuals.” What does it say about intellectuals, then, that the century in which they exercised so much influence on policymaking and public opinion was also the bloodiest in history? There are some sobering answers—few of them flattering—in Thinking the Twentieth Century. Published two years after Judt’s death from motor neurone disease, this book contains his final views on politics and economics and on a range of thinkers from Keynes to Eric Hobsbawm. A relatively obscure British academic based in New York, Judt refashioned himself in the last decade of his life into a strikingly bold and prominent public intellectual. Published in 2005, his masterpiece Postwar, a panoramic account of Europe after the second world war, broadened his reputation as a scholar of French intellectual history. But Judt was to become even better known for his eloquent defence of the old values of good governance, social and economic justice, and his attacks on his peers—western liberal intellectuals—for having succumbed to the false consolations of dogma and the blandishments of power.
more from Pankaj Mishra at Prospect Magazine here.