THE REVOLT AGAINST THE MASSES and Other Essays on Politics and Public Policy by Aaron Wildavsky

THE REVOLT AGAINST THE MASSES and Other Essays on Politics and Public Policy

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Twenty-six quite pallid essays by the dean of Berkeley's graduate faculties. Many first appeared in Commentary, Daedalus, the American Political Science Review, etc. Labeling himself ""a representative of the passionate and committed center,"" Wildavsky claims, ""My life and my work embody both a deep-seated pessimism about man's ability to control the evil in him and an abiding faith that it is worth trying to perfect his capacity for self-government."" His first essay is a blanket attack on the New Left, ""spoiled children"" all, who ""protest too much"" about ""love, love, love, LOVE."" He insists that many more Americans would be anti-war if not for protesters who he believes are mainly conspiring to get the faculty out of the way in order to attack the ""community."" With this off his chest, Wildavsky settles down to his behaviorist model-building of public decision-making, and elaborates case studies of political events -- the ABM controversy, the 1968 Democratic convention, the Goldwater phenomenon. There is also a series of essays on budget policymaking -- Wildavsky developed the ""incrementalist"" budget -- which bypass basic who-gets-what political issues. Wildavsky's ideal model of a modern activist is a fellow who built a co-op store into a $750,000 business and encouraged his black employees to fight for civil rights. Despite his committed centrism, the radical right receives none of the opprobrium piled on the New Leftists. On the ABM issue, though Wildavsky sees ""workability"" as a facade for underlying conflicts, he refuses to identify them or even give an accurate picture of the political combatants. One brief foreign policy piece recommending that the U.S. foment ""pre-emptive revolution"" in underdeveloped countries to stick the U.S.S.R. with their poverty bills cynically belies Wildavsky's faith in self-government. Bracketing the venom of the title essay, the book substitutes a languid scholasticism for intellectual urgency.

Pub Date: June 24th, 1971
Publisher: Basic Books