Dear readers: Below is a guest post/query from Christian Olaf Christiansen and Astrid Louise Nonbo Andersen, intellectual historians at University of Aarhus, Denmark.
A growing interest in US politics, culture and history can be seen in Denmark these days, where people watch The Daily Show regularly and follow the primary elections with great interest. Intellectal history as an academic discipline in Denmark, however, has only recently begun to move its area of interest outside Europe. Whereas a lot of work is available to the wider public on e.g. French and German intellectuals, there is not much work available on American intellectual history in the Danish language. This is why we want to write and edit an anthology whose title is ‘American Intellectuals in the Twentieth Century’. Such a book is going to be limited in space, however, and will only include introductions to about ten American intellectuals.
And how does this concern members of the S-USIH or readers of the S-USIH blog? Well, we thought it would only be appropirate to ask you natives before we foreigners begin to decide who are your most influential intellectuals. We are aware of the fact that making a list of 10 people seems bound to raise endless discussions. But still, inviting more people to voice their opinions on the topic is surely better than omitting it altogether. So, if you dont have anything else important to do today, you can help us set the record straight, and help foster a growing interest in US intellectual history outside US.
It is important to stress that we by ‘intellectuals’ here are mainly interested in people that actively engaged in US society and politics – not necessarily as politicians, of course, but as someone who contributed to important debates. We have found much inspiration in vol. 2 of Hollinger and Capper’s sourcebook, The American Intellectual Tradition, but as said we only have limited space in our planned anthology.
1. There are some names which we are very sure of at the moment (but we still need to cut down these lists):
Dewey, Rorty, Chomsky, Walzer, Rawls
2. …And some names we are quite sure of:
Arendt, Bell, C.W. Mills, Niebuhr/Strauss, Fukuyama/Huntington, Butler, W.E.B. du Bois/M.Luther King, I. Wallerstein.
3. …And a few other names we haven’t left out yet:
Nozick, Veblen, S. Fish, Paul de Man, W. James, G. Myrdahl, R. Dahl, T. Parsons.
Finally, we have considered making the anthology more ‘school’, ‘theme’, or ‘movement’ based, with chapters on e.g. ‘pragmatism’, ‘New School of Social Research’, ‘Afro-American intellectuals’, The Chicago School’. This would allow us to include much more material and intellectuals, but we havent been able quite to work out an organizing principle yet, and some key intellectuals might not fit into any of these categories.
Any thoughts on the matter are most welcome, both concerning names we have forgotten, names you think should definetely be part of such a book, and names you think should definetely not be on the list.
Christian Olaf Christiansen and Astrid Louise Nonbo Andersen,intellectual historians at University of Aarhus, Denmark