Thursday, April 09, 2015

To the Finland Station

Tryin to get some idea of the antecedents of Marx, I started reading "To the Finland Station" by Edmund Wilson which still draws attention. Another reason may be the story "Edmund Wilson in Benares" by Pankaj Mishra which seems available here. The first person discussed is the French historian Jules Michelet, apparently the first historian who insisted that history should concentrate on the people, and not only on its leaders and institutions. Going through the early parts of Wilson's book, as usual, I am drawn to contradictions. Here are two quotes:

"Another thing that History [History of Revolution, 1847] will establish and which holds true in every connection, is that people are more important than leaders......I have realized that it was quite wrong to take these brilliant and powerful talkers, who expressed the thought of the masses, for the sole actors of the drama....The principal actor is the people" 
 "The people, in the highest idea, is not the people itself, but some class, some partial form of the people, ephemeral and deformed. In its authentic form, at its highest power, it is seen only in the man of genius, in him the great soul resides."

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