(March 24, 1906 – December 19, 1982) was an American writer, editor, film critic, social critic, philosopher, and activist. Macdonald was a member of the New York Intellectuals
and editor of their leftist magazine Partisan Review
for six years. He also contributed to other New York publications including Time
, The New Yorker
, The New York Review of Books
, and politics
, a journal which he founded in 1944.
Early life and career
In 1929, Macdonald was employed at Time
magazine; he had been offered a job by Henry Luce
, a fellow Yale alumnus. In 1930, he became the associate editor of Fortune
, then a new publication created by Luce.
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
and credited as the person who "radicalized" him.
He is the father of filmmaker and author Nicholas Macdonald
; and of Michael Macdonald.
Editor and writer
Macdonald was an editor of the Partisan Review
magazine from 1937 to 1943, but in the course of editorial disagreements about the degree, the practice and the principles of political, cultural and literary criticism he quit to establish Politics
, a magazine of more out-spoken and leftist editorial perspective which he published from 1944 to 1949.
At the same time, Macdonald was critical of the methods that elected, democratic governments used to oppose totalitarianism. In the course of World War II
(1939–1945), he suffered from increased fatigue
and psychological depression
as he observed the progressive horrors of the war, especially the commonplace practice of the bombing
of civilian populations and the destruction of entire cities, especially the fire bombing of Dresden
(February 1945) and the mistreatment of dehumanized Germans. Hence, by the war's end, Macdonald's politics had progressed to pacifism
and to libertarian socialism
In that vein, in debating East–West politics with the writer Norman Mailer
in 1952 Macdonald said that if forced to choose a side, he would choose the West
because he opposed Stalinism
and Soviet communism
as the greatest threats to civilization.
In 1953, he publicly re-stated that pro–West political stance in the revised edition of the essay "The Root is Man" (1946). Nonetheless, in light of the anticommunist witch-hunts that were McCarthyism
(1950–1956) he later repudiated such binary politics.
In 1955, Macdonald became the associate editor for one year of Encounter
magazine, a publication sponsored by the Congress for Cultural Freedom
, which was a CIA-funded front organisation meant to ideologically influence and control cultural élites in the Cold War
(1945–1991) with the Soviet Union. Macdonald did not know that Encounter
magazine was a CIA front and when he learned the fact he condemned CIA sponsorship of literary publications and organizations. He had also participated in conferences sponsored by the Congress for Cultural Freedom.
To make the Bible readable in the modern sense means to flatten out, tone down, and convert into tepid expository prose what in [the King James Version] is wild, full of awe, poetic, and passionate. It means stepping down the voltage of the K.J.V. so that it won’t blow any fuses. Babes and sucklings (or infants) can play with the R.S.V. without the slightest danger of electrocution.
His New Yorker
reviews of Webster's Third Edition published in 1961 and Michael Harrington
's book on poverty in the United StatesThe Other America
published in 1962 are perhaps most indicative of the depth and intellectual acuity of his work. His review of Harrington's book was read by President Kennedy and later was seen as a factor in the start of Kennedy's plan for a war on poverty which President Johnson adopted after Kennedy's assassination.
In The New Republic
essay "The Browbeater" on 23 November 2011, Franklin Foer
accused Macdonald of being a hatchet-man for high culture
, going on to say that in his Masscult and Midcult: Against The American Grain
(2011) a new edition of Against the American Grain: Essays on the Effects of Mass Culture
(1962), Macdonald's cultural criticism "culminated in a plea for highbrows
to escape from the mass culture
" that dominates the mainstream of American society. Macdonald, Foer suggests, would welcome a time when "highbrows would flee to their own hermetic little world, where they could produce art
for one another, while resolutely ignoring the masses".
Likewise, in the book Dwight Macdonald on Culture: The Happy Warrior of the Mind, Reconsidered
(2013) Tadeusz Lewandowski argued that Macdonald's approach to cultural questions as a public intellectual
placed him in the conservative tradition of the British cultural critic Matthew Arnold
, of whom he was the literary heir in the 20th century. Previously, in the field of Cultural Studies
Dwight Macdonald was placed among the radical traditions of the New York Intellectuals
(left-wing anti–Stalinists) and of the Marxist Frankfurt School
Political radical renewed
Macdonald's outspokenness and volubility gained many detractors. "You have nothing to say, only to add", Gore Vidal
told him. Leon Trotsky
reportedly observed: "Every man has a right to be stupid but comrade Macdonald abuses the privilege". Paul Goodman
quipped: "Dwight thinks with his typewriter".
He once notably described his fellow anti-stalinist Heinrich Blücher
as a "true, hopeless anarchist.”
- 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 (1957/1974)
- Memoirs of a Revolutionist: Essays in Political Criticism (1960) This was later republished with the title Politics Past.
- 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
- On Movies (1969)
- 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
- ^ Menand, Louis. "Browbeaten". New Yorker. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
- ^ Podhoretz, Norman (1967). Making it. New York: Random House. p. 111. OCLC 292070.
- ^ Wreszin, Michael, ed. (2003) Interviews with Dwight MacDonald. University Press of Mississippi. p. 116.
- ^ Szalai, Jennifer (12 December 2011). "Mac the Knife: On Dwight Macdonald". The Nation. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
- ^ MacDonald, Dwight; Wreszin, Michael (2003). Interviews with Dwight Macdonald. University Press of Mississippi. p. xiii. ISBN 9781578065332. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
- ^ Macdonald, Dwight, ed. (1961) Parodies: an anthology from Chaucer to Beerbohm—and after. London: Faber; p. v
- ^ TIME 4 April 1994 Volume 143, No. 14 – "Biographical sketch of Dwight Macdonald" by John Elson Archived January 21, 2013, at the Wayback Machine (Accessed 4 December 2008)
- ^ Garner, Dwight (21 October 2011). "Dwight Macdonald's War on Mediocrity". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-12-20.
- ^ 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
- ^ a b Wakeman, John. World Authors 1950–1970: a Companion Volume to Twentieth Century Authors. New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1975. ISBN 0824204190. (pp. 902–4).
- ^ a b c "Dwight and Left: The centenary of Dwight Macdonald's birth should inspire more Americans to read their most crotchety, snobby, and brilliant critic." John Rodden and Jack Rossi. The American Prospect. February 20, 2006.
- Dwight Macdonald, 'Warsaw', politics, 1, 9 (October 1944), 257–9
- 1, 10 (November 1944), 297–8
- 1, 11 (December 1944), 327–8.
- ^ Costello, David R. (January 2005). "'My Kind of Guy': George Orwell and Dwight Macdonald, 1941–49". Journal of Contemporary History. 40 (1): 79–94. doi:10.1177/0022009405049267. JSTOR 30036310.
- ^ a b Memoirs of a Revolutionist: Essays in Political Criticism (1960). This was later republished with the title Politics Past.
- ^ a b Brock, Peter, and Young, Nigel. Pacifism in the Twentieth Century. Syracuse University Press, New York, 1999 ISBN 0-8156-8125-9 (p.249)
- ^ Dwight Macdonald, The Root is Man, Alhambra, Calif., 1953.
- ^ "Ronald Radosh's Macdonald," Michael Wreszin, The New York Times, 18 September 1988
- ^ Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea, Irving Kristol (New York 1995), p. 461.
- ^ Foer, Franklin (2011-12-15). "The Browbeater". The New Republic. Retrieved 2011-12-07.
- ^ Foer, Franklin (2011-12-15). "The Browbeater". The New Republic. Retrieved 2011-12-07.
- ^ Lewandowski, Tadeusz (2013). Dwight Macdonald on Culture: The Happy Warrior of the Mind, Reconsidered.
- ^ MacDonald, Dwight (19 January 1963). "Our Invisible Poor". The New Yorker.
- ^ Isserman, Maurice (2009-06-19). "Michael Harrington: Warrior on poverty". The New York Times.
- ^ "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" January 30, 1968 New York Post
- ^ Barsky, Robert F. Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent. 1st ed. Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 1998. Web. Ch.4: Marching with the Armies of the Night Archived January 16, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
- ^ Garner, Dwight (21 October 2011). "Dwight Macdonald's War on Mediocrity". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
- ^ Elon, Amos. "Scenes from a Marriage". New York Review of Books. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
- Bloom, Alexander (1986). Prodigal Sons: The New York Intellectuals & Their World. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Lewandowski, Tadeusz. (2013). Dwight Macdonald on Culture: The Happy Warrior of the Mind, Reconsidered. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
- 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. New York: Basic Books.
- Wreszin, Michael. editor (2003). Interviews with Dwight Macdonald.
- Dwight Macdonald Internet Archive at marxists.org
- Dwight, The Passionate Moralist, by Edward Mendelson,The New York Review of Books, March 8, 2012. Subscription required.
- Stove, R.J. The Man Who Knew Too Much.The American Conservative, December 15, 2003
Biographical sketch of Dwight Macdonald by John Elson, Time, April 4, 1994 Volume 143, No. 14
- Dwight Macdonald at Library of Congress Authorities, with 27 catalog records
- Guide to the Dwight Macdonald Papers, Yale University Library
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