[The intellectuals] are a group that holds a unique prerogative: the potential
of being either the most productive or the most parasitical of all social
The intellectuals serve as guides, as trend-setters, as the transmission belts
or middlemen between philosophy and the culture. If they adopt a philosophy of
reason—if their goal is the development of man’s rational faculty and the
pursuit of knowledge—they are a society’s most productive and most powerful
group, because their work provides the base and the integration of all other
human activities. If the intellectuals are dominated by a philosophy of
irrationalism, they become a society’s unemployed and unemployable.
From the early nineteenth century on, American intellectuals—with very rare
exceptions—were the humbly obedient followers of European philosophy, which
had entered its age of decadence. Accepting its fundamentals, they were unable
to deal with or even to grasp the nature of this country.