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PATHS OF AMERICAN THOUGHT by Arthur M. Schlesinger


by Arthur M. Schlesinger

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 1963
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

A two-volume safari into the paths of America's intellectual evolution, one which cuts some whackingly good, and not-so-good, swaths from the Colonial wilderness to the New Frontier. Most of the essayists are connected in one way or another with Harvard, Columbia and the White House; thus the book as a whole has what one of the editors calls "coherence and correspondence"; what that amounts to in point of fact and in point of view is a sort of socio-cultural rundown of the liberal democrats -- or that set of references and preferences generally shared by members of the Kennedy Administration. Such a critical consensus is, of course, not bad at all, (though one might have suggested Louis Hacker as a fitter interpreter of "laissez-faire" than Max Lerner, and certainly Dwight MacDonald could have given a more unsettling account of "mass culture" than the one we get from Daniel Bell-but that's neither here nor there). What really bothers this reader is how much of the ground covered- politics, law, literature, economics, science, philosophy, religion, history- seems always to be just getting into the underbrush when the exploration stops and off we go on another jaunt, another essay. Among the real hunters; Seymour Harris' grapplings with Keynesianism, Kazin on the Realistic Novel, White on Pragmatism; among the touch-and-go group: Schlesinger's New Deal survey, Shils on Sociology, McGeorge Bundy on Internationalism. Still, a revealing, rewarding good general guide.