THE NEXT AMERICA: The Decline and Rise of the United States by Michael Harrington

THE NEXT AMERICA: The Decline and Rise of the United States

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Joined to Michael Harrington's essay on the American condition, and ""reasons for hope,"" are complementary--but totally superfluous--photographs by Bob Adelman. We are all acquainted with the derelicts and hedonists Harrington alludes to in describing the loss of moral values; and his tearful joy at seeing a white waitress serve ""a grizzled old black man in workclothes"" in North Carolina in 1977 needs only reference to the segregated '50s and embattled '60s to make itself felt--not, in addition, a photo of the Birmingham police arresting a demonstrator in 1963. The examples also indicate the tenor of the essay: the ""new freedom"" (especially as regards sex) combined with the collapse of ""old verities"" (especially as regards religion), has left a void; but there are grounds for hope in the success of some social reforms--the old are living better, racial relations are improvable--and in the possibility, suggested by Disney World, of ""environmentally decent, clean and unpolluted cities"". . . under socialist, not corporate, aegis. All this is also, where not commonplace, somewhat less than coherent: from the Disney World specter/model Harrington shifts to the need ""that the investment process be democratized"" and his perception of the American labor movement as more attuned to economic reform, and more receptive to socialists like himself, than heretofore. But a coalition is imperative: the ""educated activists"" must ""look to the economics of their social radicalism."" This last is a point worth making--given the possibility that the presently bruited-about ""reindustrialization"" (i.e., restructuring) will be controlled by, and solely benefit, corporate interests. But it must be extracted from a murky mix of theoretical argumentation, polling results, and personal experience--that, moreover, lends itself poorly to pictorial interpretation.

Pub Date: Aug. 24th, 1981
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston