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He joined the American Communist Party in 1932. He is noted for his role in founding Partisan Review with William Phillips in 1933. The journal broke with the Soviet line in 1937 in the wake of the Moscow Trials and maintained an ongoing feud with Stalinist Popular Front advocates such as Granville Hicks of New Masses. As an independent publication, Partisan Review went on to become the most influential literary journal of the period. According to Partisan Review co-editor William Barrett's "The Truants: Adventures Among the Intellectuals", the Marxist Rahv had a healthy contempt for "Liberals", whom he viewed as appeasers of Joseph Stalin's post-World War II Soviet Union. "He [Rahv] read the Liberal weeklies and the New York Times indefatigably, and the more he read, the more apoplectic he became. "Those goddamned Liberals, " he fumed, "they'll end up giving away the whole of Western Europe to Stalin. He won't even have to make a push for it, they'll make a present of it to him."
Philip Rahv was a beacon of the New York intelligentsia. When the narrator of Robert Lowell's poem, Man and Wife meets his future wife, he "outdrank the Rahvs in the heat/of Greenwich Village, fainting at your feet." Rahv's work at Partisan Review, which he co-founded, put him at the center of an intellectual circle that included Dwight Macdonald, Lionel Trilling, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Alfred Kazin, Delmore Schwartz, Sidney Hook, William Barrett, and many other intellectuals of the period. In 1964 he served as a fiction judge for the National Book Awards together with John Cheever and Robie Macauley. Rahv remained a Marxist and was committed to the idea of achieving a synthesis of radical social criticism and literary excellence.
- Image and Idea (1949) - essays
- The Myth and the Powerhouse (1965) - essays
- Literature and the Sixth Sense (1969) - essays
MODERN OCCASIONS Edited by Philip Rahv. V.1/1-v.2/2 Fall 1970-Spring 1972. Is this complete?
- Bloom, Alexander. Prodigal Sons: The New York Intellectuals & Their World, Oxford University Press, 1986. ISBN 978-0-19-505177-3
- Barrett, William. The Truants: Adventures Among the Intellectuals, Anchor Press/Doubleday, Garden City, New York, 1982. ISBN 0-385-15966-8
- Article on Rahv and Irving Howe
- American irrealism and the cult of experience (uses Rahv's essay "The Cult of Experience in American Writing")
- Snakes, Butterbeans and the Discovery of Electricity, by James Ashbrook Perkins, "Afterword," p. 188.
- "5 Juries Selected to Pick '64 National Book Awards," New York Times, Dec 2, 1963, p. 43.