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Wednesday, Oct 20, 2010
by PopMatters Staff
by Daniel Born
The Common Review (September 2010)

“Watching as “the crisis in the humanities” grows to epic proportions—370,000 Google hits by my last count—I think about other crises in my lifetime that have shaken Western civilization. Specifically, I recall the attack in Dissent magazine that philosopher Richard Rorty made on my mentor Irving Howe fifteen years ago. Though brusque, Rorty conducted himself carefully, for this was, after all, the magazine Howe had founded, and the two men had been close friends and intellectual comrades. But Rorty was fed up with certain grandiose words and phrases echoing through the academy, and he was intent on dialing down the volume. He went after Howe for daring to use the phrase “the crisis of modern society.” Mind you, Howe had already been dead a couple of years, and he had written about said crisis while still a relative youth, in a 1954 essay titled “This Age of Conformity.””


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