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Mr. Schiesinger has as usual packed so much fresh thought into a relatively small space that it cannot be easily summarized. Thus he discusses the causes of the Civil War, the differences between liberal and conservative policies, the role of the intellectual in American life, the role of government in the arts, communism, historical writing, and American mascuitnity. Great changes in political affairs, cataclysmic though they may he, take time to sink in. Our democratic attitudes are rooted in the Lockeian assumptions of the past. As a country we are handicapped in our efforts to meet the demands of the twentieth century by many preconceptions. Some of the preconceptions are wrong and quite basic; thus we talk and think in categories which were invented by men revolting from divine rule and oppression. We fog our judgment with theories of conventional democracy, which lead us to panicky conclusions, like the conservative philosophy which holds that strong leadership will lead to totalitarianism and communism. This book is of great value in helping the reader escape from obsolete preoccupations. Part IV, which contains the most controversial of Mr. Schlesinger's essays, is an extremely useful analysis of politics and culture. Here the noted historian defines public interest both quantitatively and qualitatively, enabling the reader to see the new tasks and opportunities that are before us. This is a necessary piece of reading. Fortunately, it is a stimulating and enjoyable one.

Pub Date: Jan. 3rd, 1962
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin