Berlin’s admirers are prone to say that there is mean-spirited, reverse snobbery at work in criticisms of his constant hobnobbing with the rich, powerful and well-connected. But the justifiable charge against him here is not that he liked the company of such people: it is that his cultivated intimacy with such circles habituated him into thinking of himself as being on the inside, able to pull strings and to drop a word in the ear of those with one kind of power or another without having to mount a properly argued case in public, which might then have been open to challenge. He enjoyed his insider status and he liked his opinions to have influence, but he hated to have to acknowledge them publicly or to be drawn into controversy over them. He undeniably possessed a streak of deviousness or even cowardice, and his genuinely liberal principles were often in tension with his equally deep need to be liked and admired.
Friday, September 04, 2015
Values of the 19th century
At the Guardian, Stefan Collinis diagnosis after reading the latest volume of Isaiah Berlin's letters: