"The political failure of nerve
[on the part of intellectuals] thus has a personal counterpart in the development
of a tragic sense of life, which may be experienced as a personal discovery
and a personal burden, but is also a reflection of objective circumstances.
It arises from the fact that at the fountainheads of public decision there
are powerful men who do not themselves suffer the violent results of their
own decisions. In a world of big organizations the lines between powerful
decisions and grass-roots democratic controls become blurred and tenuous,
and seemingly irresponsible actions by individuals at the top are encouraged.
The need for action prompts them to take decisions into their own hands,
while the fact that they act as parts of large corporations or other organizations
blurs the identification of personal responsibility. Their public views
and political actions are, in this objective meaning of the world, irresponsible:
the social corollary of their irresponsibility is the fact that others
are dependent upon them and must suffer the consequence of their ignorance
and mistakes, their self-deceptions and biased motives. The sense of tragedy
in the intellectual who watches this scene is a personal reaction to the
politics and economics of collective irresponsibility" (White
Collar: The American Middle Classes, 1951, p. 158).