Tony Judt: R.I.P.

The great Tony Judt got the obituary he deserved in the New York Times last week: exemplary. Its writer, William Grimes, described Judt as “a ‘universalist social democrat’ with a deep suspicion of left-wing ideologues, identity politics and the emerging role of the United States as the world’s sole superpower.” He also noted that Judt, after an ideological left-wing youth, had “turned his attention to a problem he regarded as acute: the loss of faith in social democracy, and the power of the state to do good, that had brought prosperity to so many European countries after World War II,” and that he had cast “his lot with the nonideological liberals, like Raymond Aron and Albert Camus.

Judt is probably best known for his brilliant, riveting, unsettling Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, but he wrote and spoke often on issues he considered important. He was clear, incisive, forceful, and powerfully rational. Sentiment, prejudice, and received wisdom had no chance with him. He made many people uncomfortable, and often angry. In an article published yesterday, primarily about the illness of fellow Brit Christopher Hitchens, Liesl Schillinger used the term, “the fearless Tony Judt.”

What an utterly admirable public man.

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