Clive Bell on Narcissists and “Men of Action”

Writing in 1928 when Hitler and Mussolini were getting going, the Bloomsbury art critic Clive Bell had no time for “men of action” who threatened freedom of thought:

“Action in itself is worthless…Real men and women of action.. do not as a rule make wars and massacres, do not domineer over the weak and provoke the strong, meddle with their neighbours and turn the world upside down from altruistic motives. These things they do because only in doing can they assert themselves. What is called a man or woman of action is almost always a deformed and deficient artist who yearns to express himself or herself but, unable to express by creating, must assert by interfering. Such people are our misfortune, and there are a good many o them… They must have power, they must impose themselves, they must interfere. They are the makers of nations and empires, and the troublers of peace…They must impose their standards and ways of life…. They can and do impose external uniformity and discipline… they have nothing better to do than seek power, and as the majority is stupid and docile, they generally get it”:

[ Civilization, 1928, pp. 159-160]

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