Tony R. Judt
Director, Remarque Institute, New York University
"Necessity and Irresponsibility: Intellectuals and Politics in cold-War Europe"
"Beyond good and Evil? Intellectuals and Politics Today"
February 16 & 18, 1998
Tony Judt labels himself a historian of political ideas, but he could easily pass muster as an intellectual historian, a political historian, or even a student of politics (in the soft European sense, as he puts it). Most of his published scholarship has centered upon one or more interrelated themes: the left in the twentieth-century, the oral dilemmas of intellectuals and others in politically-polarized settings, and the self-understanding and misunderstanding of a divided Europe. He also made important contributions to Jewish history.
Judt is a graduate of King's College (Cambridge University), where he completed both his undergraduate education and his doctorate in history. Several years of work in Paris at the Ecole Normale Superieure led to the publication of two books on the French Socialist Party in 1976 (La Reconstruction du Parti Socialiste 1921-1926) and 1979 (Socialism in Provence, 1871-1914. A Study in the Origins of the Modern French Left). The second book, in particular, shows his skills in writing social history and provides a detailed look at the support, characteristics, program, appeal, and trajectory of the early French socialists in the small towns of southern France. After an interlude of work on the relationship of Marxism and the French Left, he became interested in eastern Europe and the program of opposition and dissent, learned Czech, and lectured in the underground university of Prague.
In 1993 he produced a ground-breaking study of the relationship between French intellectuals and their political ideologies entitled Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals 1944-1956. This in turn led to his most recent study of three famous French activist intellectuals- Leon Blum, Albert Camus, and Raymond Aron (The Burden of Responsibility: Blum, Camus, Aron, and the French Twentieth Century), about which one French historian wrote: amidst the din of current culture wars, Judt's voice of reason cuts through the babble like a knife through butter.
Judt's current interest is a new history of Europe since the war, but his views on the present condition of Europe may be discerned in a small but brilliant book entitled A Grand Illusion: An Essay on Europe. He is presently Remarque Professor of European Studies at New York University, where he is the director of the Remarque Institute. His numerous honors include memberships in the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the Royal Historical Society; fellowships from the Guggenheim and Nuffield Foundations, the Stanford Humanities Center, and the Rockefeller Study Center in Bellagio, Italy; and invitations to lecture at the most important institutions of higher learning in the world.
What sets Professor Judt's career apart from many historians is his role as a genuine public intellectual: he avoids academic jargon and appeals not only to disciplinary specialists but also to the general educated public. As a result, he is a frequent contributor of essays and lengthy review articles to The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, The New Republic, Daedalus, and Foreign Affairs.