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Arguing The World [Import]


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Product Details

  • Actors: Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer, Irving Howe, Irving Kristol, Alan Rosenberg
  • Directors: Joseph Dorman
  • Writers: Joseph Dorman
  • Producers: Joseph Dorman, Arnold Labaton, Gail Segal
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, DVD-Video, NTSC, Import
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Studio: Knightscove-Ellis International
  • Release Date: June 14 2005
  • Run Time: 106 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0006Z2NKY

Product Description

Amazon.ca

Ideas are important. This century has seen a war--the Cold War--fought almost exclusively with ideas, and now we have the luxury of tracing them through all their twists and turns. Arguing the World follows four "New York intellectuals" from their radical socialist days in the 1930s through their successful careers and widely diverging political beliefs. Irving Howe, Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer, and Irving Kristol were all strongly sympathetic with the international socialist struggle as young men, but by the time they arrived at City College they had lost faith in Stalin. Interviews and footage from 1930s protests, World War II, and the 1960s resurgence of radicalism show the intensity and the passion with which these men and their peers grappled with the ideas that would decide the fate of the world. From Howe's lifelong commitment to radical socialism to Kristol's neoconservatism that drove the Reagan-Thatcher revolution, we see brilliance and integrity in the face of anti-intellectualism, anti-Semitism, and generational differences. Arguing the World is a must for anyone who wants to understand the 20th century. --Rob Lightner

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Format: VHS Tape
This documentary exposes the viewer to four of the most noted members of New York's famous intellectual "Family" who were central to political and literary thought from the middle of last century on.
The film gives a decent look at where these men were from and, through interviews with them, it gives a good feel as to their positions on several topics then and now.
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By A Customer on Nov. 21 1999
Format: VHS Tape
This is probably the most coherent and mesmerizing documentary on the birth of Socialism in America and the direct impact it had in fueling the radical upsurgence in the sixties. I absolutely loved this film.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 10 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Intellectual metamorphosis April 28 2005
By A viewer from Summit, NJ - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
This excellent documentary traces the careers and political evolutions of four "New York intellectuals": Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer, Irving Howe and Irving Kristol. They all started as anti-Stalinist leftists at City College of NY in the Thirties; wrote for "Partisan Review," "Dissent," "Commentary" and other left-wing and liberal publications; published erudite books, and received teaching positions at prestige universities. And, except for Howe, they all moved well to the right as they got older.

All of this is fascinating, especially the transition to the right, and their collision with the New Left in the Sixties. By that time, they'd all gotten recognition and prestigious university appointments--in Bob Dylan's words, they now "had something to protect." They're uniformly critical of the student radicals who sought them out in the early days of the New Left. Glazer, author of "Beyond the Melting Pot," refused to support the "Free Speech Movement" at UC Berkeley, while Bell and Howe have special disdain for Tom Hayden of SDS (Howe says "he had something of the Commissar about him," while Bell calls him "the Richard Nixon of the Left"). The (aging) New Leftists interviewed have equal scorn for them--Hayden says that they were spouting off while "I was going to jail for my beliefs" and dismisses Howe pithily: "I wasn't raised in a household where everyone shouted at each other." A former Berkeley student says, "Their idea of protest was to write a letter to the editor." Only Howe (who translated Yiddish poetry and wrote a highly regarded history of Jews in NYC) remained faithful to Socialism. Glazer and Bell moved to the right of the middle, while Kristol became a friend and adviser to Reagan and the darling of the Neoconservative movement, and gets plaudits on this film from William F. Buckley Jr. and Jeanne Kirkpatrick.

I found this documentary highly satisfying. Even though all of them are or were old enough to be my father, I strongly identified with their poor and working-class NYC upbringings, and admired their dedication to intellectual life. The film does a great job of evoking the intellectual/literary NYC salons of the Forties and Fifties. It's also not without humor.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Arguing the World Nov. 21 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
This is probably the most coherent and mesmerizing documentary on the birth of Socialism in America and the direct impact it had in fueling the radical upsurgence in the sixties. I absolutely loved this film.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A glimpse into the origin of contemporary politics March 31 2007
By tribecan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful film, entertaining and intelligent, about a generation of intellectuals who met at City College in the nineteen-thirties, immediately began arguing, and never stopped. They became the dominant intellectuals in New York City for more than thirty years, spawning not only the New Left but also the original neo-conservatives. If you're at all interested in where the arguments that now dominate American politics came from, this is an invaluable film. And even if you're not, it's an entertaining collection of personalities for whom the quest to understand the world was always a vigorous wrestling match.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Alcove One is America's 20th century intellectual history Feb. 26 2007
By Shaun King.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I know of no other filmmaker who, like Joseph Dorman, so thoroughly captured the people, history, and ideas of an era as to go on to publish a book on the same subject through a major university (University of Chicago Press). This documentary is matchless. It was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The film covers both the lives of these four New York Intellectuals but also the socio-political thought of America in the twentieth-century.

Early in the feature, political philosopher Michael Walzer says, "If I try to think about the New York intellectual and specifically about these four New York Intellectuals, one of the most striking things about them....is, in a way, of thinking about the world. You can't being to analyze, say, the recent strikes in Detroit without starting with the division of labor in ancient Babylonia and working your way up: that's the context, the context is world history, and the questions you bring to your analysis are the largest questions, where are you going, where have you been."

In 1932, socialist candidate Norman Thomas, air to the party's Eugene V. Debs, won nearly a million votes in the presidential election, many of his supporters where from the new urban class of Jews. The socialist idea that inspired Daniel Bell and Irving Howe appeared first 100 years earlier by Karl Marx. Nathan Glazer's father read "The Forward," a socialist paper, and voted for Norman Thomas, Irving Kristol learned about radical politics from his sister who took him to the protest plays of Clifford Odets. Daniel Bell said, "When I joined the Epsilons in 1932, this is when Norman Thomas is running for president and a group of us would go from corner to corner with a step ladder to give talks...you don't know very much when you're 13 years old and you've got to speak for 10 minutes so I pretty much memorized the last section of "The Jungle" which is Eugene Victor Debs' speech and people would say oh how eloquent he is."

New York City College in Harlem was a school for the brightest of the city's poor, swelling applications during the Great Depression made its all male student body nearly the equal of Harvard yet more radical. Columbia, the city's more prestigious college, trained the protestant elite, and the few Jews it accepted were usually wealthy German Jews. Daniel Bell, class of 1939 said, "Columbia was for the genteel...Harvard was even much further out, totally abstract." He adds, "Most of the teachers [at NY City College] were all dodos so we educated ourselves." Kristol and Howe supported Trotsky at Alcove One where Nathan Glazer joined later. They debated, mostly, Alcove Two who were Stalinists. Alcove One watched with growing concern as fascism grew in Europe. "Partisan Review" was anti-Stalinist publication that combined literary modernism with Marxist politics, its first issues included pieces by T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Edmund Wilson, and Leon Trotsky. Alcove One was inspired by "Partisan Review." Leon Trotsky was, for many, the paradigm.

In August 1939, the era of the Popular Front came to a sudden end when Stalin signed a nonaggressive pact with Hitler. American communists quickly abandoned their alliance with Roosevelt; a week later, Germany invaded Poland to begin WWII. In 2 years time, Hitler attacked the Soviet Union and Communists proclaimed the Popular Front again. Kristol spent the war as a soldier in Southern France; Howe spent it in Alaska; the "New Leader' hired Daniel Bell as its editor; while Nathan Glazer finished college.

In 1945, Glazer became an assistant editor on "Commentary" a new magazine on politics and culture funded by a leading Jewish organization, the magazine included many from "Partisan Review" as its writers. He met Kristol the following year when he joined is editorial staff. Kristol became the editor of religious topics at "Commentary." Kristol said, "My major memory of a dinner party was...I got a plate full of food and there was a couch and so I walked over and sat down in the middle of the couch....Mayor McCarthy sat down on one side of me, Hannah Arendt sat down on the other side of me, and Diana Trilling pulled up a chair and sat facing me and I was a prisoner I couldn't get out and they then had a long hour and half disagreement on Freud and they disagreed and I don't know what they disagreed about all I know was that I sat there terror-stricken." Bell said, "Reading Weber, reading Dostoyevsky's `The Possessed' made clear that the radical apathists position was not only self-defeating but could lead the some horrifying results."

The American Communist Party...hidden from view, they largely controlled the 1948 presidential campaign of anti-Cold War candidate Henry Wallace. The following year, a Communist organized peace conference attracted a large number of liberal intellectuals and celebrities. Alarmed at communist influence in the liberal community, Kristol, Bell, and Glazer joined the "American Committee for Cultural Freedom," which had been created to organize intellectuals against the party.

Espionage fears rose as the Rosenberg couple were found guilty, and executed for giving atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. Kristol and Sidney Hook wrote a letter to the NY Times asking McCarthy to resign from public life, but Kristol and Bell were also becoming increasingly anti-communistic. "Irving Howe thought that a lot of the Cold War intellectuals, including former friends from Alcove One, by virtue of being opponents of communism they were joining in a great celebration of America, and it seemed to Irving Howe as an unwarned celebration." Howe published in 1954 "This Age of Conformity," which scandalized the left for losing intellectual and radical features. In 1953, Howe helped found "Dissent," a magazine of socialist thought, but not affiliated with any organization. Walzer, Co-editor of "Dissent," said, "you know Irving's line, `when intellectuals have nothing else to do they start a magazine.'" Glazer says, that the magazine criticized people who had "already abandoned socialism" and "fell into easy marxist modes of denunciation, sell-outs,...we were all becoming professors so I don't couldn't see the point in one group of professors attacking another group." Kristol began to co-edit a new culture magazine, "Encounter." Howe published, "Politics and the Novel," and was influential in the revival of Yiddish literature. Glazer's interests in sociology lead to writing, "The Lonely Crowd," and, "Beyond the Melting Pot." Bell's essay on labor and politics culminated in "Work and Its Discontents: the Cult of Efficiency in America," and, "The End of Ideology: on the exhaustion of political ideas in the fifties."

After WWII universities rapidly expanded and were now hiring Jews. Neither Bell, Howe, nor Glazer had received graduate degrees but they all found jobs. Tom Hayden, former president of Students for a Democratic Society met Daniel Bell after graduating from the University of Michigan. Bell said, "...what struck me most about Hayden, apart from the personality of the man which I never liked, somebody once called him the Richard Nixon of the left which I think is a nice apologia for Hayden, that these were people who had lost a sense of historical memory. The 30s were sort of lost in the fog, the 50s were confused for them and they thought they were coming out of themselves." How and "Dissent" reached out to SDS; but Hayden appeared to Howe as having a "czarist streak" that made him and his "Dissent" group uncomfortable with the absolutist position of non-violence that Hayden had.

Glazer, who went to UC at Berkley, eventually became one of the university's most vocal opponents of the free speech movement. Meanwhile, Bell was at Columbia with Lionel Trilling where another group of student protests occurred. Kristol took a skeptical view with Daniel Bell towards socialistic policies in a magazine they founded titled "The Public Interest."

George McGovern and the new democratic party was becoming increasingly leftist. Bell was critical of McGovern but voted for him, this vote lead him eventually to leave "The Public Interest." Though Glazer did not support Nixon he replaced Bell as co editor on the magazine. Neoconservatives like William F. Buckley of the "National Review" thought that their movement can be traced back to writings like "The Public Interest" and Walzer adds, "Increasingly the neoconservatives were in the grip of an ideology....of the free market, and they seemed to me to be Bolsheviks in the way they adopted, defended, and promoted this ideology." Howe prophesies, "In the coming decade or so, the political struggles will not be any longer between democratic capitalism and communist totalitarianism but will now be a struggle between conservatism, Thatcherite conservatism, or Reaganite, or Kristolite conservatism on the one hand, and social democracy on the other. Glazer does not think he is as conservative as Kristol. Bell calls himself a "socialist in economics, a liberal in politics, and a conservative in culture."

Howe helped found the Democratic Socialists of America. In the 70s and 80s Kristol wrote a series of papers to help channel the neoconservative movement, especially the religious right. Kristol says that religion has a "role to play in redeeming the country and liberalism is not prepared to give religion a role, conservatism is but it doesn't know how to do it." Bell says that for Kristol, "it has become a crusade for him." Howe said that he looks upon Kristol as "a political opponent and the fact that we were together 50 years ago doesn't stir the faintest touch of sentiment in me, I wish him well personally I wish him a long life with many political failures I hope." Howe died in 1997, the year production stopped for Joseph Dorman.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
PUTTING FACES AND VOICES TO FAMOUS INTELLECTUALS Jan. 13 2003
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
This documentary exposes the viewer to four of the most noted members of New York's famous intellectual "Family" who were central to political and literary thought from the middle of last century on.
The film gives a decent look at where these men were from and, through interviews with them, it gives a good feel as to their positions on several topics then and now.


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