Richard Hofstadter lends his historian's craft to the rather popular task of anthologizing American violence, and whatever reservations one may have about collections of umpteen separate bloody incidents, the master's hand is evident throughout. Hofstadter's thoughtful introduction gives a scholarly substance to the whole subject, delineating and expounding upon the major chronic forms of group violence in America, marking out the significant areas which invite further research, and reflecting upon the particular forms of violence that flourished in the 1960's. He regrets the rising mystique of armed struggle on the left, since force "has more characteristically served domineering capitalists or trigger-happy police, peremptory sergeants or fascist hoodlums." But "the hideous and gratuitous official violence in Vietnam" has eroded the effectiveness of appeals to peaceful protest. The 107 documentary selections have been divided as well as could be managed into eight varieties of violence—political, economic, racial, religious-ethnic, anti-radical and police, personal, assassinations and terrorism, and "Violence in the Name of Law, Order, and Morality." They are primarily eyewitness or newspaper accounts, "of distinctly reportorial character and value, rather than editorialized." Hofstadter and his younger associate Wallace provide introductory remarks for each separate piece, confined largely to the episode at hand, and cite additional pertinent references. If, as Hofstadter asserts, "the rediscovery of our violence will undoubtedly be one of the important intellectual legacies of the 1960's," then this is among the better places to linger over that legacy.
Read full book review >