BEING AND DOING by Marcus Raskin


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Raskin, an Institute for Policy Studies member and Spock trial defendant, may draw a big audience for this ambitious essay on the theory and practice of social reconstruction. His ideas about practice, however, add up to a flurry of bright-idea projects, and his ""existential pragmatism"" boils down to a sophomoric version of localist, gradualist anti-authoritarianism, riddled rather than reinforced with intellectual self-consciousness. Raskin uses a ""colony"" metaphor to designate repressive modes and institutions -- the military establishment, the schools, the work force seeking ""totem status,"" corporate management, schools and communication media. He resembles Charles Reich in his Jeffersonian nostalgia, his rhetoric against the liberal-corporate behemoth, his celebrations of counter-culture and his conviction that ""role and function no longer matter""; but he is far more fecund in his remedies -- we are offered not just bellbottoms but a gimmicky syndicalism of worker-community groups, local control of TV, and the university as a self-contained ""body politic."" Raskin's political philosophy is more highly articulated but is equally devoid of strategic urgency. The ""violence colony"" and the ""national security managers"" are wrecking the world, we need a new party to renew the social contract before ""a series of wars"" brings fascist repression. But save your adrenalin, we presently learn that ""by 2000"" our counter-institutions may be in a position to fight the national-security state over allocation of resources. Written with incredible awkwardness, the book is so complacent about its humane questions -- e.g., ""the need for a procedure which judges actions by those undertaking them and those who study them"" -- that it feels no obligation to provide social logic, political coherence, or lucid answers.

Pub Date: June 3rd, 1971
Publisher: Random House