A ""neoconservative"" who calls himself a socialist, Bell has been setting the terms of highbrow establishment discourse--in...


THE WINDING PASSAGE: Essays and Sociological Journeys, 1960-1980

A ""neoconservative"" who calls himself a socialist, Bell has been setting the terms of highbrow establishment discourse--in periodicals like Fortune, Encounter, and The Public Interest--since World War II. This collection of essays supplements his two most recent books--themselves collections of essays--The Coming of Post-Industrial Society and The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, without developing any new themes. Aside from polemics aimed at Hannah Arendt, Michael Harrington, and C. Wright Mills, which are couched as reviews, the essays deal with: Bell's ideas about the political neutrality of technology; the cultural dangers of ""modernism""--which, concentrating on the emotional release of the self, undermines the shared sense of meanings necessary to make a morally neutral economy like capitalism work; and, concomitantly, the need/for a new moral order. Bell argues that in a post-industrial society--characterized by the growth of the service sector and technical advances in production--knowledge takes on a key role in determining power. But since he also maintains that both technology and economy are neutral, he does not join fellow neoconservatives like Nisbet and Kristol in their assault on the ""new class"" of technicians and managers; to Bell, what they share is a ""mentality"" dependent on the values of the culture, not the objective nature of their function. Hence his obsession with subjective modernist culture, which denigrates the role of technical knowledge and undermines the structural base of post-industrialism. This is, by now, Bell's stock in trade; but here, as in his previous books, there is no real effort to depict a new moral order, merely nostalgia for a golden age of capitalism-with-community. His one discussion of community comes in an essay on ethnicity, which he sees as a strategy to wrest more from a political structure built on entitlements. Aside from one or two lapses into sociological jargon, these essays amply display Bell's brand of ""intellectual journalism,"" but together they make no advance on his previous books.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 1980


Page Count: -

Publisher: Abt Books

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1980