Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Substitution of Rhetoric for Thought

The Pitfalls of Rhetorical Exuberance, or The Substitution of Rhetoric for Thought

Harold Laski was an intellectual of the Left who inhabited the British Political Scene during the 30s and 40s. An academic with the gift of fiery eloquence, Laski bestrode the Socialist League like a popinjay, not afraid to advocate violence if the Labour Partydid not obtain what it needed by general consent.” He reveled in the great triumph of Socialism at the end of the Second World War, when the British dumped the iconic war hero Winston Churchill and embraced the brave new world promised by the amiable and stoic Clement Atlee and his Labor Party.

Laski was cerebral, convinced and convincing. He was also apt to be intolerant, impatient and ill-disciplined. He irritated Atlee, whom he considered a mediocrity, to the extent that the Prime Minister issued a famous laconic rebuke that effectively ended Laski’s career: “ ... a period of silence on your part would be welcome.

More cutting still was the verdict of Ayn Rand who placed him as the villain Ellesworth Toohey in The Fountainhead. Even the great Democratic Establishment Historian Art Schlesinger could not resist a crack. In Harold Laski: a Life on the Left he writes: “He (Laski) gave the highest value to individual freedom but never explained how it could survive without diversification of ownership. His fatal fluency enabled him to glide over the hard questions. His besetting sin was the substitution of rhetoric for thought.

Sound Familiar?

No comments:

Post a Comment