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Jacques Barzun, RIP

Here is a fine study in the New York Times of the writer and intellectual figure, Jacques Barzun. His views on art, culture and the state of our civilisation are all worth reading. He made it to almost 105 years of age.

Here is a Wikipedia page about him, which contains a full bibliography. Here is one of his better known books, From Dawn To Decadence.

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4 comments to Jacques Barzun, RIP

  • Perry Metzger

    Barzun and I shared an extremely tenuous personal connection — we were both members of the Philolexian Society at Columbia University, though many decades apart. The society gave Barzun its literary achievement award at its annual dinner a couple of years ago, though unfortunately Prof. Barzun was far too infirm to attend personally. I was saddened to hear of his passing.

  • Gene

    I’ve been slogging through From Dawn to Decadence for months now, never able to permanently put it down, but at the same time only able to read it in spurts with breaks of a few weeks at a time in-between. Fortunately it’s a book that can be read that way.

    Guess I owe it to the old boy to finish it off.

  • Darrell

    I too am presently reading From Dawn To Decadence, usually just a few pages a night before bedtime. I love the book, it’s a lot to digest all at once. I was saddened to hear of his demise. The book was published when he was 92, I believe. Amazing.

  • Paul Marks

    “Teaching in America” is a very impressive work – it gives insight into what American education used to be (the strengths and the weaknessess). And the flaws and imperfections were what gave the forces of destruction their chance.

    Barzun himself was an incredibly impressive man. He spent his life in the United States but he was really part of that mainstream of French culture that Sartre and the other leftbank types made their name in revolt against – and he was better than them. A better (clearer) thinker – and a better man.

    It is often forgotten that the influene of Germanic collectivist thought (via Richard Ely, Woodrow Wilson…) was traditionally, partly, countered in the United States by French classical liberal thought.

    “France and classical liberalism?”


    Arthur Latham Perry (the most important pro freedom economist in the United States in the 19th century) was inspired by Bastiat.

    Babbitt and P.E. Moore (the fathers of the “New Humanism” that was the main enemy of the left, of the forces of destruction, in American culture in the 1920s and 1930s) were inspired by French liberal (classical liberal) thought – the idea that freedom and civilisation were not enemies (as with “rebels” with their insistance on freedom to steal, smash and murder – total “freedom” for themselves within the context of total collectivism for everyone else), but rather than civilisation was the manifestation of rational liberty in the world.

    It is astonishing that Jacques Barzun has only just died – as he was the living representative of the old tradition (the tradition of rational liberty, of civilisation) in French thought – indeed in European thought. Barzun outlived the “rebels” of the 1920s – and he has outlived most of the post World War II “rebels” (even those of the 1960s) also.

    Jacques Barzun was personally a great man – but he was also the representative of a great civilisation, indeed of civilisation itself.

    And Barzun never regarded being part of the great tradition of rational liberty (of civilisation) and, in any way, an insult to himself (as the “rebels” regarded it – as a limitation on their “freedom” to destroy), on the contrary Barzu was honoured to be part of the great tradition.