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The Disappearing Liberal Intellectual Hardcover – March 21, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A gutsy salvo against the neoliberal intellectual establishment, Lott's manifesto will probably go down in scholarly circles as a benchmark text for sheer deconstructive virulence. Aiming indiscriminately at "boomer liberals," the "color-blind club," the "Old Boy's Left" and "cosmopolitan-nationalists," University of Virginia professor Lott (Love and Theft) rails against liberal intellectuals who don't embrace contemporary identity politics. In Lott's view, such intellectuals (from Arthur Schlesinger Jr. to Todd Gitlin) are, at best, guilty of a "weak Ellisonianism"; most, however, are "squeamish," ineffectual sellouts. Lott devotes nearly an entire chapter to Michael Lind, whose intellect he clearly admires. Yet, he says, Lind's dismissal of "cultural" politics and adherence to "strategic essentialism" make him "a throwback in visionary's clothes." Lott provides little more than a snapshot of some thinkers from the "vital center"; his work is more academic showpiece than serious survey of the challenges confronting the left. "Highlighting the contradictions between pluralist and cosmopolitan allegiances obscured by the multicultural umbrella," he observes, "Hollinger rejects what Sollors has termed the 'pure pluralism' of ethnic and black studies, substituting cosmopolitanism for a multiculturalism he regards as something like a superseded step between an oblivious universalism and an enlightened hybridism." Such dense writing decrees that Lott's book will have little resonance outside academe. (Apr.)
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About the Author

Eric Lott is a Professor of English at the University of Virginia. He is the author of the award-winning Love and Theft: Blackface, Minstrelsy, and the American Working Class, which won the 1994 Avery O. Craven Award from OAH, the first annual MLA Prize for a First Book, and the 1994 Outstanding Book on the Subject of Human Rights by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights. Lott's writing has appeared in numerous publications, including the Village Voice, The Nation, Transition, and American Quarterly. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (March 21, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465041868
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465041862
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,413,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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32 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Panopticonman on May 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In THE DISAPPEARING LIBERAL INTELLECTUAL, Eric Lott makes a convincing argument that liberal intellectuals such as Richard Rorty, Todd Gitlin, Henry Louis Gates, and Michael Lind among others have attacked the libertarian multicultural left in order position their nationalistic brand of "boomer" liberalism as the best hope against the tide of red state conservatism. And that by doing so, they are doing the work of the right wing.

To a large extent, because the brand of liberalism endorsed by these writers is for most Americans what the left is understood to be, some readers may find Lott's distinction between liberal and left confusing at first. But for those who can make the necessary distinction, Lott offers a bracing, erudite criticism that is long overdue

As one who has read many of the writers and Mr. Lott examines, I find his judgments fair but also, where appropriate, unsparing. Indeed, Mr. Lott bends over backwards to give credit to many of these authors.

For instance, he gives Michael Lind due appreciation for his original thinking on Jefferson and his influence (negative) on American culture. He also credits Stanley Crouch for Crouch's dead-on assumption that American culture is African American culture, or at the very least, a Creole culture. Lott is dismissive, and rightly so, of Crouch's quasi-conservatism on political issues as they relate to race, finding him to be cranky and wrong-headed. But Lott is not mean-spirited in this criticism. He simply believes Crouch is wrong.

Lott maintains that the attempted marginalization of the radical left by these writers has been counterproductive to the stated goal of many of them: to get the necessary electoral heft to drive the right wing from power.
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