The Attack on Bourgeois Society: an Introduction to Cultural Despair in the Late Nineteenth and Twentieth Century European Thought, with Four Illustrative Studies from Traditions of the European Intellectual Milieu
Portland State University. Department of History
Michael F. Reardon
Term of Graduation
Date of Publication
Master of Arts (M.A.) in History
Europe -- Intellectual life, P.-J. Proudhon (1809-1865), T. S. Eliot (1888-1965), Emmanuel Mounier (1905-1950), Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)
1 online resource (3, 109 pages)
The rise of the middle class to power and influence in European culture and politics in the nineteenth century created the conditions of modern life which to many European intellectuals were distasteful and ominous. They viewed urbanization, commercialization, industrialization and the qualities of life that they engendered, such as anxiety, limitation of freedom, and pervasive mediocrity in cultural expression, as being inimical to the traditional and more reliable values of European civilization or, in some instances, as being incapable of providing the bases for a free and humane existence.
This study focuses on the attack on bourgeois society in Europe in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries in an attempt to expand the definition of "cultural despair," a term to which it is related. Although others have discussed this general topic, cultural despair, the present study takes for its starting point the limited outlines offered in Fritz Stern's The Politics of Cultural Despair. This is undertaken for the dual purpose of exposing to historical scrutiny a background theme of European intellectual activity of the former and present centuries, and to help construct a historiographical tool with which the historian can seek to understand more readily the impact of the rise of the middle class and its consequences on the mind of Europe. To reinforce the understanding of the topic of cultural despair, the essay offers four illustrations of cultural despair from traditions of the European intellectual milieu. These are the revolutionary, represented by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and the critique of bourgeois economics; the literary, represented by T. S. Eliot and the critique of modern culture; the Catholic, represented by Emmanuel Mounier and his critique of bourgeois life; and the existentialist, represented by Jean-Paul Sartre and the redefinition of freedom in modern life. Finally, this effort concludes with an attempt to synthesize the attitudes of these four men in their relation to the general subject.
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Wollner, Craig Evan, "The Attack on Bourgeois Society: an Introduction to Cultural Despair in the Late Nineteenth and Twentieth Century European Thought, with Four Illustrative Studies from Traditions of the European Intellectual Milieu" (1969). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 812.