Arguing the World

Watch Arguing the World

  • NR
  • 1998
  • 1 hr 46 min
  • 7.0  (93)

Arguing the World is a documentary film that takes an in-depth look at the lives and professional careers of four New York City-based intellectuals – Irving Howe, Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer, and Irving Kristol – and their contributions to American political thought and culture from the 1930s to the present day. Directed by Joseph Dorman, the film premiered in 1997 and is a valuable retelling of the lives of four of the greatest political thinkers of the 20th century.

The film begins by introducing the four protagonists, who met as college students in the 1930s and were later united by their leftist leanings and Jewish heritage. They quickly discovered that they wanted to do more than simply argue their points and win debates; they wanted to transform society. The film then goes on to explore the unique paths each of the four men took, including their evolving views on Communism, anti-Semitism, and Zionism.

Throughout the film, the men discuss the political and cultural landscape of the United States in the 1930s and 1940s, when they were young adults. They recall the Depression, the rise of Hitler, and the horrors of World War II as defining moments that shaped their political beliefs. Bell, Glazer, Howe, and Kristol talk about their individual experiences with the Communist Party and how they came to realize that the Soviet Union was not the utopia they had imagined.

The film also highlights the impact that the four men had in the academic world, as well as on broader political discourse. They were able to introduce fresh ideas, and their rigorous analyses of the issues helped to set the tone for many subsequent debates. The film features vintage footage of the men reading their passionate and at times contentious essays and speeches, and these clips are interspersed with more recent interviews.

Another important theme explored throughout the film is the complex relationship that the four men had with their Jewish identities. The film shows how they each struggled with their feelings of marginalization and self-doubt, and how they used their intellects as a way of constructing a sense of meaning and purpose. The film also delves into the men's views on Zionism and Israel, which were often at odds with each other.

The documentary concludes with an examination of the legacy of the four intellectuals. Although they have long since retired from their formal academic, editorial and political careers, their work continues to influence contemporary debates in a variety of fields, including philosophy, sociology, politics, and education. The filmmakers argue that the four thinkers remain relevant due to their commitment to the preservation of a democratic society that values equality of opportunity, social justice, and intellectual rigor.

In conclusion, Arguing the World is a truly fascinating film that provides a compelling insight into the life and work of four of the most influential political thinkers of the 20th century. With interviews, archival footage, and thoughtful commentary, the film offers an insightful look at their true character, their successes, and failures, as well as their ideas and their legacies. Ultimately, the film underscores the enduring relevance of their intellectual work and the importance of rigorous argumentation and debate in a democratic society.

Arguing the World is a 1998 documentary with a runtime of 1 hour and 46 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.0.

Where to Watch Arguing the World
Arguing the World is available to watch free on Kanopy. It's also available to stream, download on demand at . Some platforms allow you to rent Arguing the World for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 46 min
  • IMDB Rating
    7.0  (93)