THE RADICAL RENEWAL: The Politics of Ideas in Modern America by Norman Birnbaum

THE RADICAL RENEWAL: The Politics of Ideas in Modern America

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Reflections on the state of ideas in the American political and educational process and on the possibilities for transforming society; by Birnbaum (Georgetown Univ. Law Center), founding editor of New Left Review and board member of Partisan Review and The Nation. Birnbaum begins by stating why he has not joined the ranks of the neoconservatives (his repugnance of their reliance on authoritarianism, despair, and rootlessness), then spends the rest of the book partly demonstrating that his fruit doesn't fall too far from the neoconservative tree, despite his belief that he has always worked within the Marxist tradition. His Marxist roots underpin his insistence that the American polls is guided by inseparable bonds between acquisitiveness and individualism, and liberty and property. Birnbaum doesn't pretend that his ""radical renewal"" can be based upon a republic of virtue: ""We need not attempt the impossible, the invention of a future in total rupture with the past""; or, as he later states, ""In this nation, philosophers may propose, but lawyers dispose."" His affinity with neoconservatives is reflected in his belief that our intellectuals have suffered a collapse of the imagination and loss of nerve. He strays from neoconservatism, however, in his, in the end, optimistic view of the future, which he sees as having possibilities of a major transformation. Our society, he states, is chock-full of intelligence, learning, moral energy, and new creative insights, all of which, if channeled properly, can lead to a new social utopia. A reasoned, erudite response, then, to Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind, and while unlikely to come near to that best-seller's popularity, certainly worthy of some attention.

Pub Date: June 27th, 1988
Publisher: Pantheon