The Company of Critics provides a fascinating survey of the terrain of social criticism in the last century. Organizing the book as a series of eleven intellectual biographies, Michael Walzer tells not just the dramatic story of the cultural and political radical but also the more personal story of the meaning of criticism to the critic. By looking at the life and work of Julien Benda, Randolph Bourne, Martin Buber, Antonio Gramsci, Ignazio Silone, George Orwell, Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, Herbert Marcuse, Michel Foucault, and Breyten Breytenbach, Walzer explains the role of the public intellectual in the context of what he identifies as “the triumphs and catastrophes of our time: the two world wars, the struggles of the working class, national liberation, feminism, totalitarian politics.”The new edition, featuring a new preface, contains Walzer’s thoughts on his own role as a public intellectual and, most important, the challenges that lie ahead for the engaged social critic. With its unique emphasis on life as a proving ground for thought, The Company of Critics is a necessary addition to the literature of social and political engagement both within and outside of the academy.
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