Northern Illinois University Press

Ben-Gurion and the Intellectuals

Power, Knowledge, and Charisma

Michael Keren

In the early 1960s, David Ben-Gurion found himself in bitter conflict with Israel's leading intellectuals, who had been intimately involved in the nation-building effort he directed following the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. This study focuses on Ben-Gurion's role as a master statesman fascinated by the combined function of knowledge and power in the modern state and skilled in the utilization of both. It analyzes his political conflict with the intellectualsóscientists, philosophers, biblical scholars, and writersóby tracing the vigorous and direct exchange of ideas that occurred from the founding of Israel to the sharp division of the 1960s.

As leader of the monumental effort of nation-building, Ben-Gurion had to find ways of dealing creatively with such conditions as the social diversity of successive waves of immigrants and severe problems in the international arena. Communicating a messianic vision of society, culture, and statesmanship, he drew the intellectual leaders into the orbit of the "charismatic center" of Israeli society, so that they were able to make a major contribution to the development of that society. By the very nature of their preoccupation with knowledge, however, the intellectuals came to adopt the role of watchdog over the leadership of the "philosopher-king."

Ben-Gurion and the Intellectuals offers striking insights into the personalities and ideas that shaped the state of Israel. In particular, through its examination of the dialogue that took place during the crucial years after 1948, it explores the nature and dynamics of the relationship between power and knowledge in the nation-building process and shows how the stance taken by the intellectuals ultimately provided a new set of norms and guidelines for the Israeli nation.

(1983) 220 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-094-3
cloth $33.00

Table of Contents

1 The Scientists
2 The Philosophers
3 The Biblical Scholars
4 The Writers
5 The Emerging Philosopher-King

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-094-3
cloth $33.00