THE REVIVAL OF AMERICAN SOCIALISM: Selected Papers of the Socialist Scholars Conference by George -- Ed. Fischer

THE REVIVAL OF AMERICAN SOCIALISM: Selected Papers of the Socialist Scholars Conference

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Socialist Scholars Conference met yearly from '64 to '70, giving platforms to both socialists and left-liberals like Irving Howe, represented here by an essay rehashing the bourgeois theory of pluralism. In temperament and practical work the theorists are quite different from the majority of New Left students in the '60's. These sixteen topically diverse articles are joined by the issue of where and why Marx was wrong, and what Marxists can do about it in an era of ""one-dimensional,"" consumption-oriented ""neo-capitalism."" Two contributions have considerable merit: John Cammett's discussion of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci's theory of a hegemonic socialist culture transcending the confinements of working-class institutions like trade unions, and Harry Magdoff's well-documented perspective of postwar U.S. economic expansion. Both of these, however, are available elsewhere. Of the three pieces on Marcuse, only Martin Jay's puts him in context of intellectual history. The thesis that the proletariat has lost its revolutionary role is mulled over by Nicolaus, Birnbaum, Sweezy, and the Belgian Trotskyist Mandel. Mandel hints that the capitalist greed manifested in inflation may yet push the workers toward revolution, Sweezy takes the armchair view that revolution has passed to the Third World; Birnbaum puts his money on the ""new working class"" of technicians and engineers; while Nicolaus acknowledges in his 1970 postscript that the French May Days proved him ""wrong,"" though he makes no comment about the methodology leading him into ""wrongness."" Insofar as the notion of a quiescent, goods-glutted working class has been rocked by worldwide unemployment, inflation, and strikes (and given the authors' collective detachment from actual movements of either the New Left or traditional left), it may be doubted that these essays represent the wellspring of a revival of American socialism.

Pub Date: June 3rd, 1971
Publisher: Oxford