POLITICAL PASSAGES: Journeys of Change Through Two Decades, 1968-1988 by John H.--Ed. Bunzel

POLITICAL PASSAGES: Journeys of Change Through Two Decades, 1968-1988

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An autobiographical anthology by a dozen veterans of the 60's, chronicling their passage from New Left radicalism to individual styles of neo-conservatism. Edited by a Senior Research Fellow at the conservative Hoover Institute, the volume is introduced by a cogent essay by Edward Shils (Social Thought/Univ. of Chicago). Bunzel's concept is reminiscent of The God That Failed (Richard Crossman, 1949), in which six former Communists detailed their journey away from the leftist faith. All 12 of the essayists are similarly disaffected with their earlier radical days. Shils sheds light on the 12 perspectives by philosophizing on the totalitarian versus the antinomian temptation, the former having been the radical tendency of his own generation in the 30's. The major difference, Shils suggests, is that the totalitation temptation arrogated to itself the anarchistic ideal, while the 60's antinomian students, though despising institutions of any kind, including government, expected somebody--who?--to ensure the full measure of their individual rights to do whatever they pleased. The 12 essayists here have all come to the conclusion--from different perspectives--that the antinomian impulse was misguided. Joseph Epstein (ed., The American Scholar) learned that ""the left is scarcely the repository of all political virtue; far from it."" Julius Lester (Amherst) was disturbed to discover that the movement had quickly become ""anti-democratic:"" David Horowitz (former editor, Ramparts) suggests that being in the left was to live inside a beautiful but criminal idea and that ""socialism is a political road paved with good intentions that leads to human hell."" Carol Iannone found that feminism, ""far from being a means to greater self-possession for women, is a form of self-evasion."" A Big Chill for the political set, but one-sided for the common world-view of its writers.

Pub Date: May 30th, 1988
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan