A collection of essays, from the 1960s, that provides a conservative perspective on that decade.
Davidson’s distinguished histories of WWII Germany (The Unmaking of Adolph Hitler, 1996, etc.) mark him as a leading 20th-century intellectual. This collection of essays (originally used as editorial introductions for Modern Age) provides an appreciation for his conservative political beliefs and their relationship to the era in which they were written. The author’s primary charge is that the political and social turmoil of that time arose largely from the sophistry and excesses of the political left. Thus, he sees the civil-rights movement as undermining itself by degrading the very African-American population it purported to help in inciting racial and class envy; he attacks the Soviet government’s encirclement of Berlin and its attempt to station nuclear missiles in Cuba as proof of communism’s immorality and its threat to world freedom; he asserts that charges of collective societal guilt for the assassination of President Kennedy are patently absurd; and he voices his opposition to the Vietnam War in terms of presidential encroachment on the congressional constitution authority to declare war instead of political ideology. Underlying all of Davidson’s criticisms of the left is an unflinching confidence in the conservative principles of governmental balance of powers, decentralization, and the inalienable primacy of the individual. It must be said, however, that, despite the intellectual coherence of Davidson’s arguments and the clarity of his prose, these essays read as period pieces today: like the decade in which they were written, they reflect black-and-white beliefs about the Cold War, racial conflict, and Vietnam. As such, they are notable not so much for their argument, but for what they show about conservatism in the 1960s.
Sound insights into the conservative intellectual reaction to the ascendancy of liberal beliefs in the ’60s, and an interesting window into the passions of the times.