Randolph Bourne

Randolph Bourne

Randolph Silliman Bourne (May 30, 1886December 22, 1918) was a progressive writer and public intellectual born in Bloomfield, New Jersey, and a graduate of Columbia University. Bourne is best known for his essays, especially "War is the Health of the State," which remained unfinished when found after his death.

Bourne's articles appeared in the magazine, "The Seven Arts" and "The New Republic," among other journals of the day.

During World War I, American progressives, Bourne included, found themselves split and pitted against each other. The two factions that emerged were the pro-war faction, led by the educational theorist John Dewey, and the anti-war faction, of which both Bourne and other famous progressives like Jane Addams were a part. Bourne was a student of Dewey at Columbia, but he took issue with Dewey's idea of using the war as a tool with which to spread democracy, and in his pointedly-titled 1918 essay "Twilight of Idols," while invoking the progressive pragmatism of Dewey's contemporary William James, Bourne argued that America was using democracy as an ends to justify the war, but that democracy itself was never examined. While he was a follower of Dewey originally, he felt that Dewey had betrayed his democratic ideals by focusing only on the facade of a democratic government, rather than on the ideas behind democracy that Dewey had professed to respect.

Bourne was greatly influenced by Horace Kallen's 1915 essay "Democracy Versus the Melting-Pot," and argued, like Kallen, that Americanism ought not to be associated with Anglo-Saxonism. In his 1916 article "Trans-National America," Bourne argued that the US should accommodate immigrant cultures into a "cosmopolitan America," instead of forcing immigrants to assimilate to Anglophilic culture.

Bourne died in the Spanish flu epidemic shortly after the Armistice of World War I. His ideas have been influential in the shaping of postmodern ideas of cosmopolitanism and multiculturalism, and recent intellectuals such as David Hollinger have written extensively on Bourne's ideology. John Dos Passos, an influential American modernist writer, eulogized Bourne in the chapter "Randolph Bourne" of his novel 1919 and drew heavily on the ideas presented in "War Is The Health of the State" in the novel.

Bourne was born with a deformed face and essentially a hunchback. He chronicled his experiences in his essay titled, "The Handicapped."


*cite book | first = Edward | last = Abrahams | year = 1986 | title = The Lyrical Left: Randolph Bourne, Alfred Stieglitz, and the Origins of Cultural Radicalism in America | publisher = University Press of Virginia | location = Charlottesville | id = ISBN 0-8139-1080-3
*cite book | first = Casey Nelson | last= Blake | year = 1990 | title = Beloved Community: The Cultural Criticism of Randolph Bourne, Van Wyck Brooks, Waldo Frank & Lewis Mumford | publisher = University of North Carolina Press | location = Chapel Hill | id = ISBN 0-8078-1935-2
*cite book | first = Olaf (ed.) | last = Hansen | year = 1977 | title = Randolph Bourne: The Radical Will: Selected Writings, 1911-1918 | publisher = Urizen Books | location = New York | id = ISBN 0-916354-00-8
*cite book | first = David A. | last = Hollinger | year = 1995 | title = Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism | publisher = BasicBooks | location = New York | id = ISBN 0-465-05991-0
*cite book | first = Christopher | last = Lasch | authorlink = Christopher Lasch | year = 1986, 1965 | title = The New Radicalism in America, 1889-1963: The Intellectual As a Social Type | edition = paperback | publisher = Norton | location = New York | id = ISBN 0-393-30319-5
*cite book | first = Sherman | last = Paul | year = 1966 | title = Randolph Bourne | publisher = University of Minnesota Press | location = Minneapolis
*cite book | first = Eric J. (ed.) | last = Sandeen | year = 1981 | title = The Letters of Randolph Bourne: A Comprehensive Edition | publisher = Whitston Pub. Co. | location = Troy, N.Y. | id = ISBN 0-87875-190-4
*cite book | first = Randolph | last = Bourne | year = 1964 | title = War and the Intellectuals: Collected Essays 1915-1919 | publisher = Harper Torchbook | location = NY

Writing Online

* [http://fair-use.org/randolph-bourne/the-state "The State"] (1918)
** [http://www.bopsecrets.org/CF/bourne.htm "War is the Health of the State"] (1918), excerpted from "The State"
* [http://fair-use.org/masses/1912/03/law-and-order "Law and Order"] , from "Masses" (March 1912)
* [http://fair-use.org/the-new-republic/1916/03/11/the-price-of-radicalism "The Price of Radicalism"] , from "The New Republic" (March 11, 1916). 161.
* [http://www.swarthmore.edu/SocSci/rbannis1/AIH19th/Bourne.html "Trans-National America"] , from "Atlantic Monthly", 118 (July 1916), 86-97
* [http://fair-use.org/the-new-republic/1916/11/04/what-is-exploitation "What is Exploitation?"] from "The New Republic" (November 4, 1916). 12–14.
* [http://fair-use.org/seven-arts/1917/06/the-war-and-the-intellectuals "The War and the Intellectuals"] , from "Seven Arts" II (June 1917), 133-146.
* [http://fair-use.org/seven-arts/1917/09/a-war-diary "A War Diary"] , from "Seven Arts" II (September 1917), 535-547.
* [http://fair-use.org/the-new-republic/1917/11/24/h-l-mencken "H. L. Mencken"] , from The New Republic (November 24, 1917). 102–103.

External links

* [http://fair-use.org/the-new-republic/1919/01/04/randolph-bourne Bourne's obituary] , from "The New Republic" (1919-01-04), by Floyd Dell
* [http://www.bigeye.com/rbourne.htm Randolph Bourne 1886-1918] includes links to writings by and about Bourne
* [http://recollectionbooks.com/bleed/Encyclopedia/BourneRandolph.htm Randolph Bourne Page] from the Anarchist Encyclopedia
* [http://www.wpunj.edu/~newpol/issue25/phelps25.htm "Bourne Yet Again: Errors of Geneaology," by Christopher Phelps]

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