BEYOND LEFT AND RIGHT by A. Lawrence Chickering

BEYOND LEFT AND RIGHT

Breaking the Political Stalemate

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A carefully reasoned attempt to find common ground between liberals and conservatives, by a libertarian conservative committed to eliminating racism and poverty. Chickering (founder and associate director of San Francisco's International Center for Economic Growth) argues that political tensions on both the left and the right evolve from a need to reconcile order and freedom. He traces those tensions from the first stirrings of individualism in the 14th century through the rise of the middle class, the Romantic reaction to capitalism, and the dissolution of bonds once provided by religion as well as by governments both socialist and capitalist. Chickering convincingly argues that citizens must wrest government from the hands of political professionals and devise their own solutions to problems, ``ordering'' their lives in ways satisfactory to themselves. But the author's analysis can be uneven, especially when it comes to race relations: He tends to overlook the huge disparities in wealth and power that underlie many social problems, treating these problems as if they were only questions of point of view. At times, he seems partisan--overlooking Clinton's emphasis on the ``reciprocal obligations'' of welfare recipients, for example, even as he praises similar Republican proposals. And while he doesn't acknowledge or perhaps realize it, Chickering draws on many of the same (Kuhnian, poststructuralist) insights about subjectivity-- about the need for personal approaches to problem-solving--that have inspired leftists in questions of multiculturalism, college curriculums, etc. Though the author doesn't always follow those findings to the same liberal conclusions, it's fascinating to see how compelling these insights can be, and to realize that they offer hope of replacing left/right rhetoric with constructive dialogue. Chickering's emphasis on the discovery of personal and site- specific answers to problems--backed by accounts of successful community projects worldwide--will inspire even many who disagree with his positions.

Pub Date: July 15th, 1993
ISBN: 1-55815-209-1
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1993




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