Moynihan presents these essays as examples of ""near-term analysis of an everyday sort in the practice of government."" He...

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COPING: On the Practice of Government

Moynihan presents these essays as examples of ""near-term analysis of an everyday sort in the practice of government."" He really wants to tell us the lessons he learned in the '60's both as social scientist and political executive -- and first and foremost is a lesson in modesty: the practice of politics is not prophesying but coping. Moynihan was hit hard by the domestic and international failures of the Democratic administrations in which he participated; the murder of President Kennedy was the turning point. Thereafter Moynihan scaled down his expectations of what government could do about most things. He learned to expect trouble, to mistrust the educated and wealthy when they control the politics of the liberal left -- and their children when they control the politics of the radical left. Nor does he take competence in government for granted. He believes that his earlier political experiences support his newly-found prudence. What his dissent from conventional liberalism boils down to is a warning against hubris. We do not need grand visions but solid problem-solving and, above all, solid problem-posing. In Moynihan's view, both liberals and radicals wrongly place moral purpose above practical good. He warns that political problems are not to be confused with knowledge porblems and that the politics of ultimate ends is not responsible politics. In this, he is a latter-day Weberian. But to emphasize consequences over values is also to court conservatism. In the end, Moynihan seems to settle for Nixon's goal of bringing to a close a period of disillusion and disorder. He may find no resting place there either, for after this administration it is no longer possible to write that ""a miracle of American national government is the almost complete absence of monetary corruption at all levels, and most especially at the top.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 1973

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1973