The Interested Man

Nathan Glazer, "The Interested Man," The New Republic, November 4, 2009.


I think back to these early days because it seems to me that Irving was all of a piece, almost from the beginning. No comment on his passing has failed to mention the young Trotskyist of Alcove 1 at ccny. But what other young ex-Trotskyist of 1943 would have been interested in reviewing Lionel Trilling’s E.M. Forster, and in going back to Trilling’s 1940 Partisan Review essay on T.S. Eliot’s Idea of a Christian Society? In that review in Enquiry–“a journal of independent radical thought,” actually an organ of ex-Trotskyists–Irving tells us that Trilling “subjected the liberal-socialist ideology to a vigorous and pointed chiding.” He quotes Trilling’s criticism of the idea that “man, in his quality, in his kind, will be wholly changed by socialism in fine ways that we cannot predict: man will be good, not as some men have been good, but in new and unspecified fashions.” Socialism and radicalism, in this view, expect too much from politics, from reform, from, indeed, revolution–they will not, cannot change man in his essential qualities. The “moral realism,” Irving writes, of Forster and Trilling is better: “It foresees no new virtues. … It is non-eschatological, skeptical of proposed revisions of man’s nature, content with the possibilities and limitations that are always with us.”

The New Republic