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As an apologia for the ""vital center"" of democratic politics, Anti-Politics in America is derivative, elongated, and smug. It is one of those books whose satisfying parts add up to a thoroughly unsatisfactory whole. After a tendentious introduction, the author proceeds to indict and then execute the anti-democratic forces of American history, past and present, left and right. The ranks of the analyzed include the John Birch Society and the Peace Movement, the utopians and the Populists, the Quakers and the Socialists, and such liberal sociologists as Robert Lynd, C. Wright Mills, and Floyd Hunter. The author's enemies are those who reject compromise, political evolution, moderation, and politics and politicians. From his vantage point of the Reporter and New Leader liberal identity, he glosses the work of Bell, Dahl, Riesman, Hofstadter, and a Norman Jacobson, among others. He produces elaborate intellectual constructs that terminate in such acts of perception as he displays in a discussion of pacifism (""There is a real tendency to apply a double standard to the United States and to the Soviet Union""). In the course of this he berates its advocates for daring to maintain that ""since the end of the Second World War the United States has been equally guilty with the Soviet Union for the dangerous impasse between East and West."" The major weakness of Bunzel's work is that while it is explicitly descriptive, it is implicitly in favor of one type of politics over others. An intellectual milk-run.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1967
Publisher: Knopf