The Free Press: Niall Ferguson: The Treason of the Intellectuals

By Niall Ferguson

December 10, 2023

“In 1927 the French philosopher Julien Benda published La trahison des clercs—“The Treason of the Intellectuals”—which condemned the descent of European intellectuals into extreme nationalism and racism. By that point, although Benito Mussolini had been in power in Italy for five years, Adolf Hitler was still six years away from power in Germany and 13 years away from victory over France. But already Benda could see the pernicious role that many European academics were playing in politics.

Those who were meant to pursue the life of the mind, he wrote, had ushered in “the age of the intellectual organization of political hatreds.” And those hatreds were already moving from the realm of the ideas into the realm of violence—with results that would be catastrophic for all of Europe.”

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