Dwight Macdonald

Dwight Macdonald (1906-1982) was an American writer, editor, film critic, social critic, philosopher, and political radical.


[edit] Early life and career

Macdonald was born in New York City and was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale University. His first job was as a trainee executive for Macy's but he soon moved to Time, where he was offered a position by his fellow Yale alumnus Henry Luce. From 1929 Macdonald was an associate editor at Luce's ambitious Fortune, an unexpected position for someone with Macdonald's literary interests. Like many writers on Fortune, his politics were radicalized by the Great Depression. He resigned from the magazine in 1936 over an editorial dispute, when the magazine's executives severely edited the last installment of his extended four-part attack on U.S. Steel.

In 1934, he married Nancy Gardiner Rodman (1910-1996), sister of Selden Rodman.

[edit] Politics and literature

Macdonald went on to edit Partisan Review from 1937 to 1943, but quit to start his own rival journal Politics from 1944 through 1949.[1] As an editor he helped foster diverse voices such as Lionel Trilling, Mary McCarthy, George Orwell, Bruno Bettelheim, and C. Wright Mills. All along he was contributing to The New Yorker as a staff writer and to Esquire as film critic, gradually becoming famous enough to supply movie reviews on The Today Show in the 1960s.

Macdonald deserted Trotskyism, like many intellectuals of the time, and embraced pacifism and individualist anarchism.[2] In the 1950s, he was fiercely anti-Soviet, maintaining a relationship with the anti-Soviet and more generally anti-Communist Congress for Cultural Freedom. At one stage being considered a possible editor of the group's magazine Encounter, though nothing came of this. Later still, he was an even fiercer opponent of the Vietnam War and a great enthusiast for the student radicals of the 1960s like Abbie Hoffman. Showing characteristic unpredictability, he combined this new-found political radicalism with a cultural conservatism that paralleled Gyrgy Luk¡cs's.

Most often thought of as a writer for The New Yorker, Macdonald also published more than thirty essays and reviews in The New York Review of Books, starting with that periodical's first issue of 1 February 1963. When Hannah Arendt was asked to write a brief introduction to a reprint of Macdonald's politics, her thoughts ("He's All Dwight") appeared in NYRB on 1 August 1968.

[edit] Anecdotes

Leon Trotsky is alleged to have said, "Everyone has the right to be stupid, but comrade Macdonald abuses the privilege" - a remark that reportedly delighted Macdonald. Some, such as John Lukacs, reckon that Macdonald probably invented the remark and attributed it to Trotsky. Macdonald's biographer Michael Wreszin was unable to find any source for the epigram except Macdonald himself.

During the Columbia University protests of 1968, Macdonald expressed disappointment about the many red flags on campus that symbolized revolution. He complained that there were no black flags to reflect "my anarchist tastes."

[edit] Works

  • Fascism and the American Scene (1938) pamphlet
  • The war's greatest scandal; the story of Jim Crow in uniform (1943) pamphlet, research by Nancy Macdonald
  • The Responsibility of Peoples: An Essay on War Guilt (1944)
  • Henry Wallace: The Man and the Myth (1948)
  • The Root is Man: Two Essays in Politics (1953)
  • The Ford Foundation: The Men and the Millions - an Unauthorized Biography (1955)
  • The Responsibility of Peoples, and Other Essays in Political Criticism (1957)
  • Memoirs of a Revolutionist: Essays in Political Criticism (1960)
  • Neither Victims nor Executioners by Albert Camus (1960) translator
  • Parodies: An Anthology from Chaucer to Beerbohm - and After (1960) editor
  • Against The American Grain: Essays on the Effects of Mass Culture (1962)
  • Our Invisible Poor (1963)
  • Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (1965) editor
  • Politics Past (1970)
  • Dwight Macdonald on Movies (1971)
  • Discriminations: Essays and Afterthoughts 1938-1974 (1974)
  • My Past and Thoughts : The Memoirs of Alexander Herzen (1982) editor
  • A Moral Temper: The Letters of Dwight Macdonald (2001) edited by Michael Wreszin

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ TIME April 4, 1994 Volume 143, No. 14 - "Biographical sketch of Dwight Macdonald" by John Elson (Accessed 4 December 2008)
  2. ^ Mattson, Kevin. 2002. Intellectuals in Action: The Origins of the New Left and Radical Liberalism, 1945-1970. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002. p. 34

[edit] References

  • Bloom, Alexander. Prodigal Sons: The New York Intellectuals & Their World, Oxford University Press, 1986. ISBN 978-0-19-505177-3
  • Sumner, Gregory D. (1996) Dwight Macdonald and the Politics Circle: The Challenge of Cosmopolitan Democracy
  • Whitfield , Stephen J. (1984) A Critical American: The Politics of Dwight Macdonald
  • Wreszin, Michael (1994) A Rebel in Defense of Tradition: The Life and Politics of Dwight MacDonald
  • Wreszin, Michael. editor (2003) Interviews with Dwight Macdonald

[edit] External links

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