OF THEE, NEVERTHELESS, I SING: An Essay on American Political Values by William Lee Miller

OF THEE, NEVERTHELESS, I SING: An Essay on American Political Values

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The train of thought of these belletristic chapters goes as follows: (A) Americans are narrowly efficient. (B) It is a cliche to say that Americans are narrowly efficient. (C) Tocqueville, nonetheless, was right about conformity. (D) I have no specific suggestions for doing anything about it. . . . Miller is a former speechwriter for Adlai Stevenson (Sr.) and a veteran professor; he also seems to be a shallow pundit vexed by a feeling that he ought to live up to some intellectual standards. The kind of We're-all-right-Jack smugness (cf. the title) that may have represented a position ten years ago is now transparently empty. Miller finds his universe occupied by social democrats and Kissingerian operatives, and, to give the book life, nit-picks about both. But he has nothing to say about policy direction except for the accurate observation that politics is not ""the art of the possible"" but the enlargement of what is taken to be possible. In concrete terms, Miller can only recall that JFK's ""ask not what"" inaugural represented a sham invocation of World War II spirit rather than a call for reflective self-expansion, or that the New Left picked up the 1950's moanings against ""mass society"" without infusing new content. The book's main contribution is to prove that Stevenson must have coined his own epigrams, contrary to the allegations of detractors: Miller's own remain at the level of ""the Lippmann for all seasons.

Pub Date: May 21st, 1975
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich