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Return of the "L" Word: A Liberal Vision for the New Century [Kindle Edition]

Douglas S. Massey
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Somewhere in the 1970s liberals in the United States lost their way. After successes like the New Deal, they became arrogant. So argues Douglas Massey in Return of the "L" Word. Faced with the difficult politics of race and class, liberals used the heavy hand of government to impose policies on a resentful public. Conservatives capitalized on this with a staunch ideology of free markets, limited government, and conservative social values. The time is ripe for a liberal realignment, declares Massey, but what has been lacking is a consistent liberal ideology that explains to voters, in simple terms, government's vital role in producing a healthier, more financially equitable, less divided society.

This book supplies that ideology. Massey begins his powerful manifesto by laying out the liberals' mistakes over the past twenty years. Drawing on insights from the expanding field of economic sociology, he then sets forth a clear set of liberal principles to explain how markets work in society, principles he applies to articulate salable liberal policies.

After outlining a new liberal political philosophy, Massey traces liberalism's opposition and says plainly: liberals should have no illusions about the competition's resolve and skill. He closes with a practical approach to liberal coalition-building in America. The political economy conservatives have constructed in recent decades has benefited 20 percent of the people. Liberal success requires a return to material rather than symbolic politics, showing most Americans why it is in their economic as well as moral interest to support the liberal cause.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though this slim manifesto from Princeton sociology and public affairs professor Massey purports to offer a blueprint for liberals who want to "turn the tables on conservatives," it is largely a one-sided argument in favor of Democrats and against "radical" Republicans. In his attempt to recast the word "liberal" as a positive descriptor, Massey defines the term so broadly that it loses much of its meaning, and the optimistic picture he paints of the liberal utopia that supposedly existed before the rise of the VARWICON (i.e., the "Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy") will raise some eyebrows. But this is an unabashedly partisan work, one that attempts to reach out to the dedicated fan bases of Paul Krugman and Molly Ivins. Unfortunately, Massey offers little here that's new. He dissects the tactics of conservative contingents and levels familiar accusations at the "House of Bush" and its "cronies." However, he doesn't just blame conservatives: he is withering in his assessment of liberals' inability to defend their principles and connect with voters. Massey proposes some items for a liberal agenda-including increased market transparency and large-scale education reform-and his use of economic sociology to analyze markets is intriguing. But it yields no particularly innovative prescriptions for Liberals looking to restore the strength of their party; instead, he falls back on the facile, binary worldview he claims conservatives possess.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


[Massey] considers why liberalism has declined and offers a novel repackaging of its values in the hopes of rekindling a coherent liberal response to the dominant conservative ideology.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1903 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (January 10, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002WJM6YU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,253,460 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
To revive the liberal movement in America and achieve future policy success, Princeton Professor Doug Massey argues that liberals need to articulate how their issue positions will speak and can speak to the everyday needs of people and how this has been done in the past.

Massey points out that the conservative movement benefits very few people, but effective marketing (and the subsequent positioning) has made all of the difference. People honestly believing that they are also included in the 'beneficiaries' of a conservative policy are not necessarily going to stop and read the very fine print.

But, it's the fine print which catches the 'everybody else' every single time. Conservative politicians talk about 'common people's lives' because they have learned this is what brings in the votes, but they remain as detached and self-absorbed as ever. They still want a majority of the wealth concentrated in a compact segment.

A key strength of Massey's work is that it recognizes the power of economic systems to bring about political and social transformation. Viewing markets as autonomous entities apart from politics ultimately proves disastrous and we need to be articulating how our world view will ultimately benefit other people in 'concrete ways' inside their own daily lives.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much needed - especially for the 2006 Elections August 3, 2005
The best part of the book is Dr. Massey's unflinching view of how the liberals essentially led to their own downfall thanks to the excesses of the 1970s identity politics and neglect of the working poor and middle-class.

His Chapter 3 is worth the price of the book as it outlines a great argument to the conservative's rallying cry of free markets. Liberals need to embrace the concept of "fair markets" as the best response to conservative slurs of liberals as being socialists.
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My copy had lots of typos. Minus one star for that!

I'm not a liberal, but I read this book to gain insight into what Massey believes liberalism to be. He does a great job explaining the plusses of liberalism and the minuses of conservatism. The book is perfect in length. Massey keeps it concise. He demonstrates how capitalism and the free market are man-made, and how they will fail. I don't agree with the treatment of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, as not all of those VARWICONs are extremist, racist, sexist, etc organizations. (The same can be said of a few radical left-wing groups.)

He raises very good points about the Libertarian Party. (At the same time, how can Massey think it's okay for our taxes to go to the National Endowment for the Arts or National Public Radio? The Libertarians are right on that issue!)

I recommend this book for conservatives who want to learn about liberalism in a mature context, versus the childish writing in other liberal diatribes (ahem, Michael Moore). I also think liberals who want support in their arguments will gain from this book, again, because it doesn't turn liberalism into frat party insult swapping pot smoking feast!
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1.0 out of 5 stars you can't be serious June 10, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The only reason I would recommend this book to anyone is if you want a firm grasp of just how bad identity politics have gotten inside the ivy league.

It's a rather painful read with little new information, yet espouses a level of hatred of everyone the author disagrees with that reaches a new low and certainly makes you wish to return to an earlier day of gentlemanly scholars who actually spoke about subjects they had personally studied and had some expertise in.

But his hatred of ALL REPUBLICAN scholars and anyone who has ever worked at a CHRISTIAN organization is shocking!! I think this man needs a hug. And then a big fat spanking. It's a seriously disturbing book. Read Fred Siegal's review.

Peace and love,

Katherine Bartley
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More About the Author

Douglas S. Massey is the Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Formerly he was the Dorothy Swaine Thomas Professor and Chair of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is co-author of American Apartheid (Harvard University Press, 1993), which won the Distinguished Publication Award of the American Sociological Association, and more recently he co-authored The Source of the River, the first analysis of minority achievement in selective colleges and universities based on a representative, national sample.

Massey has also published extensively on Mexican immigration, including the books Return to Aztlan (University of California Press, 1987) and Miracles on the Border (University of Arizona Press, 1995). The latter book, co-authored with Jorge Durand, won a 1996 Southwest Book Award. His latest two books on immigration, coauthored with long-time collaborator Jorge Durand, are Crossing the Border (Russell Sage Press, 2004) and Beyond Smoke and Mirrors (Russell Sage Press 2002). The latter offers a critical analysis of U.S. immigration policy toward Mexico during a period of widespread economic integration under NAFTA and won the 2004 Otis Dudley Duncan Award for the best book in social demography,.

Massey has also served on the faculty of the University of Chicago where he directed its Latin American Studies Center and Population Research Center. He is also formerly a director of the University of Pennsylvania's Population Studies Center and chair of its Graduate Group in Demography. During 1979 and 1980 he undertook postdoctoral research at the University of California at Berkeley and Princeton University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1978. Massey is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He is Past-President of the Population Association of America and the American Sociological Association and current President of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

His most recent book is Taming the River: Negotiating the Academic, Financial, and Social Currents in America's Selective Colleges and Universities (Princeton University Press 2009). He is currently revising a book entitled Brokered Boundaries: Constructing Immigrant Identity in Anti-Immigrant Times (co-authored with Magaly Sanchez).


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