The Rise and Fall of the American Left
The American Left was born in America--not, as some would have it, in Europe or the Third World, and the American Left was nurtured by intellectuals ... Show synopsis The American Left was born in America--not, as some would have it, in Europe or the Third World, and the American Left was nurtured by intellectuals and activists who read Jefferson and Whitman before they read Marx or Mao. One lesson this brilliant history teaches us is that the fury of radical innocence and wounded idealism so peculiar to American intellectual history springs from native soil. The American Left is not a single phenomenon but four surprising eruptions throughout the past century: . The Lyrical Left, of the First World War years. Sometimes known as "the New Intellectuals, " its leaders, born and educated in the United States, were uniformly mindful of America's roots. The Old Left, as it came to be known, wrote its agenda driven by the legacy of World War I, the hopes that had sprung from the promise of socialism, and the clear failure of American capitalism so manifest in the Great Depression. The New Left of the 1960s combined a revolt against the banalities of middleclass life with civil rights fervor and, finally, protest against America's longest war, Vietnam. The result was one of the most unsettled and incoherent decades in American history. And now, much embattled by twelve years of Republican rule, we have the contemporary Academic Left building on unfirm ground, seeking on the one hand to question the traditional values of the West and on the other to embrace the causes of women and minorities long shut out of that tradition whose future may well depend upon Western values. The American Left is no dry-as-dust subject. Its leaders, men and women strong in rhetoric and actions, are among the most riveting personalities of our time--Max and Crystal Eastman, EmmaGoldman, Walter Lippmann, Eugene Debs, Norman Thomas, Reinhold Niebuhr, Herbert Marcuse, Mario Savio, Eldridge Cleaver, Sidney Hook, Irving Howe. These lives, so skillfully interwoven into so important an American story, make this book the best available history of its subject.