This article analyzes the historical conditions for, and implications of, the attitudes and conduct of a number of prominent or influential public intellectuals in the United States during the Great War. It argues that many intellectuals, particularly those who supported American entry to the war, shared a general lack of concern with the realities of full-scale warfare. Their response to the war had little to do with the war itself – its political and economic causes, brutal and industrial character, and human and material costs. Rather, their positions were often based on their views of culture and philosophy, or on their visions of the post-war world. As a result, relatively few of these intellectuals fully considered the political, social, and economic context in which the catastrophe occurred. The war, to many of them, was primarily a clash of civilizations, a battle of good versus evil, civilized democracy versus barbaric savagery, progress versus backwardness, culture versus kultur. The article describes several manifestations of American intellectual approaches to the war, discusses the correlation between intellectual and general public attitudes, and concludes with some implications for thinking about the relationship between intellectuals and war in more recent American history.


Temkin, Moshik. "Culture vs. Kultur, or a Clash of Civilizations: Public Intellectuals in the United States and the Great War, 1917-1918." The Historical Journal 58.1 (February 2015): 157-182.