56 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2001
I'm old enough to remember a little of what went on politically and culturally in the 1960's, but too young to be conversant when it comes to the noted writers, activists and others who set the tone for the "revolution" that took place toward the end of the postwar baby boom. To me, "The Long March" served as a great documentary introduction to this time period that changed the social agenda for many.
Roger Kimball is a conservative who can't stand the influence of the 1960's (actually, the late 50's through the early 70's) in creating what he calls the "liberal establishment" that evolved from that era. His book is a superbly written (and yes, conservatively biased) account of the progression of thought and activism through a little more than a decade, spurred on by a group of influential artists and "avant-garde" intellectuals of the time. The author focuses primarily on the literary aspects of 60's radicalism, with a wealth of commentary on works by authors/poets such as Norman Mailer, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Susan Sontag, Timothy Leary and Eldridge Cleaver. In addition, Mr. Kimball chronicles the activism involving the Black Panthers and the student revolts at Berkeley, Cornell and Yale Universities.
Most of Mr. Kimball's efforts are aimed at trashing quotes (literary or otherwise) by every guru that happened to hold sway over the 60's youth and associated political/social "counterculture." I must say, he does a good job of it. He possesses a wonderful way of taking what at the time were much revered literature and speechmaking, and turning them into the most inane, irresponsible drivel one has ever read or heard. The author is particularly unfriendly to pacifists, riot inciters, and advocates of unrestrained sex, drug use, and rock music. Okay, rock 'n' roll ruled, but my views aren't far off from his on the other issues.
What impressed me the most about this book was the author's erudite, witty narrative and his command of the English language. Even though I have no time to get stressed out over what happened 30-40 years ago, I thought this was a great read. That Mr. Kimball's views are right up the conservative alley might leave you either very pleased or horribly distressed. If you happen to think highly of people such as Mailer, Sontag, Leary, Cleaver, or even Tom Hayden, you won't be happy with this book. For others, note the perspective, keep an open mind, and enjoy reading.
88 of 100 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2000
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Now I know why our schools, colleges, and moral society are in decay. Roger Kimball's The Long March is a tour de force of the factors responsible for this decline. He pieces together the disparate personalities who were deified at the time as purveyors of a new kind of freedom--freedom without responsibility. What they wrought was a society without standards. "Anything Goes" is their motto but woe to the person who questions the results of this kind of lifestyle. Kimball documents their demand for tolerance of all kinds of malordorous behavior yet they are completely intolerant of any criticism. The results are evident throughout our culture. No other book has shown the sources of this decline with such wit and intelligence. The Long March is essential reading for anyone who cares about preserving American culture.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2004
In my entire life, this is the only book that I've read three times. Upon each perusal it becomes more endearing. The Long March is the most powerful indict of the 1960s and the counterculture that has ever been written. More than any other publication, it is capable of convincing moderates of the need to CONSERVE America and our western tradition as well. Although, I am politically of the same bend as Mr. Kimball, I must admit that this book was not a simple sermon to the parishioners. In my youth, I idolized the beat poets but only knew the true story of their lives after reading his second chapter. The same is true of Marcuse, whose Eros and Civilization along with One-Dimensional Man I devoured and appreciated years ago.
The Long March depicts the full story of the way in which our society was softened up by the likes of Brown, Reich, and Goodman to allow it to blossom into the permanent immaturity of the sixties. An immaturity and a selfishness that still binds us. The pseudo-compassionate hippies brought us multiculturalism and political correctness and currently are the cause of 18 year olds mortgaging their futures by borrowing fortunes in exchange for a Philistine's college education.
As a cultural commentator, Kimball is resolute, spirited, witty, and as observant as an eagle peering down from Mount Rushmore. This is, quite simply, the finest and most important work whose spine I ever cracked.
41 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2000
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Roger Kimball has squelched through the reeking, gummy, sunless swamps of Sixties Thought so that those of us with less patience and fortitude might be spared the effort. I remember encountering most of these superannuated juvenile delinquent windbags, ranting, panting, prose- killing German professors and other long-marchers in my youth. Although it seemed both impossible and pointless to read any of them through to the end, I have read enough to assert with confidence that Kimball presents his readers with an accurate account of their works. In doing this he has performed a valuable service, and performed it with clarity, precision, and wit.
Never mind that the scribblings of these critters have long since lost their vogue. This book makes clear the source of the ideas which have filled the vacuum caused by the utter collapse of 1950s liberalism and it also sheds light on the confusion and fatuity of the American Intellectual Establishment. This Establishment now finds it convenient to shrug off Kimball's subjects as mere period figures while avoiding any explanation of their previous celebrity. How, for example, to explain the New Yorker's series on Charles Reich's The Greening of America?-a work with less durability, rationality, or merit than bell-bottom jeans. Yet, they were all celebrated for a space and the curious can confirm this with very little research.
Kimball's conviction that American society is like a rudderless ship largely as a consequence of the cultural nihilism championed by the long-marchers forms the context of his work. Those of us enjoying the country's present prosperity and international predominance (and I admit to being a beneficiary) should give some thought to the simile. A rudderless ship may be surging with power, free of leaks, and loaded with fully functioning mechanical amenities, but it faces a problematic future.
In the meantime the ship's band is a pain in the ear.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2001
As a graduate of the University of California ('71) I lived through those Black Panther Days and the Timothy Leary nights. Everything made sense to us including Tim's run for the governership of California. Mr. Kimball's thought process puts it all into perspective. We were HAD because 'they' were selling sex and fun and we confused this with meaning. Now we sit in the cuture of our own baby-boomer making. Victim whining, fithy lyrics coming from my kid's room, unwatch-able TV, venal politicians and the sniggering of our fellow citizens when we try to speak of honesty, courage, and value in the American experience. Plus the book was wicked funny
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2002
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Roger Kimball's indictment of Mailer, Sontag, and other gurus of the Sixties is powerful; indeed, inarguable. How can anyone answer Mr. Kimball's contention that our culture is awash in sewage; that the source of that sewage was the cultural revolution of the 1960s; and that Mailer and others of his ilk facilitated the toxic flow? In my opinion, no one can -- at least not effectively or with honesty.
Erudite, and well-written, researched, reasoned, and argued, there is little with which to find fault. I must say, though, that I don't fully agree with Mr. Kimball's contention that traditional values "are rooted deeply in a God-fearing Protestant ethic...." Perhaps. I would argue, however, that mainstream Protestantism has been absolutely corrupted by secularism, and that Christian Fundamentalism is intellectually and theologically hopeless. It is, rather, the Catholic Church that has been the most standfast moral bastion, which is why she is perceived as the last formidable foe by the extreme Left.
I congratulate Mr. Kimball on a worthy effort. But is he not wasting his time? Who reads him, Bork, Buchanan, except for those who already agree with them? Not many. And that is a tragedy, for I suspect that there is little time remaining.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2010
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An alternative title for this book might be The "Meaning" of America (a take-off on a major title of the 60's, The Greening of America), not in the sense of analyzing America but in the sense that America is a much meaner place since the 60's. As a person who graduated high school in 1962 I well remember the craziness that swept the nation during that period. I remember wondering how anyone could be that stupid, that angry and that destructive?! I know now that the insanity was largely drug-induced and that publicity for the craziness was carefully orchestrated, but at the time it was as bewildering as it was hateful.
Mr. Kimball's premise is that the off-the-wall changes in attitudes of the period seeped into the mainstream and the effects are still clearly visible today. I totally agree. I remember watching in horrified disbelief non-sensical drivel being hailed as `poetry' and paint spills elevated to the status of `art'. Meanwhile, the elite trendsetters invariably (and vociferously) found fault with America and saw flag-burning as a legitimate expression of discontent. Possibly the most sinister legacy of the 60's is the popularizing of drug use which has grown to epidemic proportions, destroyed lives (both innocent and not-so-innocent), shattered families and accounts for an unconscionable percentage of law enforcement efforts. Since the 60's America has become a surreal and dangerous place to live and American citizens have had to accommodate to the dangers. If, for example, we have fat children perhaps it is because they must be driven everywhere because it is no longer safe to let them walk!
The Long March documents the players and the events that brought about these changes. Be prepared to consult the dictionary a few times as Mr. Kimball occasionally uses words we don't hear in everyday conversation. Even so, I found each such incident illuminating and strongly recommend the book to all ages. Those who lived through the 60's will recognize the names (and likely gain new understanding of their motives) and those too young to remember will scarcely believe the intensity of the onslaught. But I assure the latter that it did happen and it does affect your lives (and the lives of your children) today.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
As a radical of the 60s, who has since moved on, this volume was a pleasure to read.
The book traces the story of how the 60s cultural revolution happened and why. It examines in some detail the "long march through the institutions" which the radicals took. The phrase, attributed to the Italian Marxist Gramsci, speaks of the need to overthrow societies from within, instead of relying on bloody revolutions from without. The strategy, laments Kimball, had been all too effective.
Indeed, no one could have foreseen how quickly and easily the institutions did crumble before the radical activists. The moral, cultural and social blitzkrieg has been as thorough as it has been all-consuming. And the success of this revolution, Kimball reminds, "can be measured not in toppled governments but in shattered values".
Values of every kind have been thrown to the wind in this far-reaching revolution. Religious values, cultural values, moral values and social values have all been deeply effected, making this one of the most thorough and successful revolutions to date.
Kimball begins his study with leading figures from the 50s such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. He reminds us that although these characters are idolised by many today, they in fact sought to glorify "madness, drug abuse, criminality, and excess". Not a great footing for the next generation to build upon. But that is exactly what transpired.
Social and cultural nihilism became a hallmark of the hippy generation, with plentiful servings of sex, drugs and rock and roll defining the movement. But it is not just the hedonism and decadence of the 60s that Kimball highlights, but the leading intellectual movers and shakers that undergirded it.
A whole chapter is therefore devoted to leftist novelist Norman Mailer. Susan Sontag, the leftwing feminist and intellectual also gets a whole chapter, as does Charles Reich and his The Greening of America, LSD guru Timothy Leary, and one time Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver. Norman O. Brown, Herbert Marcuse and Paul Goodman, among others, are also covered.
In an intriguing chapter entitled "The Liberal Capitulation" Kimball recounts the days of the violent campus protests. Beginning with the Free Speech Movement at the University of California at Berkeley in 1964, he recounts how the campus takeovers and violence spread around the nation. Kimball notes that the radical demands of the university activists were matched by the pathetic surrender of the campus chiefs. Heads of most universities quickly caved in to the demands of the radicals, and the political correctness run amok today is the direct result of this capitulation.
Thus higher education in the US today is mainly about promoting radical political agendas and ideologies, and has very little to do with the idea of the unbiased pursuit of truth and knowledge. (Kimball of course has explored this them in much more detail in his 1990 study, Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education.)
Kimball also covers other usual suspects in the cultural revolution: Tom Hayden, Bobby Seale, William Kunstler, Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Daniel Berrigan, William Sloane Coffin, and Rap Brown. He notes that most of these radicals were products of the bourgeois, capitalist system: "Whatever else it was, the long march of America's cultural revolution was a capitalist, bourgeois revolution: a revolution of the privileged, by the privileged, and for the privileged."
Kimball concludes by asking where such activists can be found today. The lack of campus activism and social radicalism is mainly due to the success of the 60s revolution. The truth is, "there is little that the radicals demanded that they did not get."
Unfortunately the book ends with no proposals as to how to turn things around. He carefully analyses how the culture war succeeded, but offers no real advice for the way ahead. He does seem to want to eschew complete despair and surrender. He rejects, for example, the advice of culture-warrior Paul Weyrich. In a famous open letter to his friends and supporters in 1999, Weyrich basically raised the white flag, saying we had lost big time, and that perhaps out best response is to head for the hills. But all Kimball can offer instead is a one-line summation: "the answer to a cultural revolution is not counterrevolution but recuperation". He does not tell us what that means, however, nor how to achieve it.
Thus we have to look elsewhere to find strategies for reclaiming the culture. But as a helpful overview of the 60s revolution and the damage it has wrought, this is as good a volume as any, and well worth the read.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2002
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By the time Pat Buchanan suggested that the United States was embroiled in a cultural war, the forces of social conservatism that he represented had already lost. No better demonstration of the truth of this exists than Buchanan's subsequent fate: once a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination, then a third-party candidate exhibiting derisory electoral performance, and now a gadfly easily dismissed as a right-wing extremist.
The left won the cultural war because its leaders understood at an early point that success in its struggle, which sought no less than an utter change in the character of society, entailed much more than winning elections. It involved making "the long march through the institutions" - academia, the news media, entertainment and the arts - as well. The scruffy adolescents who burnt their draft cards and defecated in the filing cabinets of their college deans' offices are now forty- and fifty-something tenured professors, journalists, and television producers. Conservatives, concentrating on how many precincts they could carry, either regarded cultural institutions as secondary to their concerns, or completely dismissed them out of philistine disregard. This is how, despite conservative electoral successes, American society remains vulgarized, sexualized, and consumerized, with Marxian economic and social analysis and Freudian psychology underlying many of its prejudices and assumptions. Few feminists may be aware of Marx's scathing remarks about "the claptrap of the bourgeois family" in the "Communist Manifesto," or Engels's argument that the only difference between marriage and prostitution was the duration of the contract, but such beliefs are the commonplaces of modern feminism.
Much of "The Long March" is devoted to quotations from the writings of radical leftists. Some are so hysterically laughable as to defy parody. Others will inspire anger, and still others, disgust (the praise of pædophilic, sadomasochistic homosexuality quoted from Ginsberg and Burroughs is not for the weak of stomach).
This isn't a long book, and some interesting questions are left untreated. For example, why did such "establishment" figures in academia as Kingman Brewster and Grayson Kirk supinely accept the destruction of order in their institutions? The answer has to be found in their own philosophical deficiencies. It is a matter of record that many of the academic generation previous to that of the victorious 'sixties radicals were themselves profoundly unconvinced of the order they should have been resolute in defending. Few of them really were convinced of the virtue of the European humanist tradition based in the blending of Judeo-Christian religious faith with classical Græco-Roman philosophy, history, and literature. Much less did they value the system of private property, free enterprise, and the rule of law which we still designate by the epithet Marx applied to it - capitalism. Many hearkened back to beliefs expressed by their own predecessors, such figures as Dewey and Conant, that some sort of socialism was inevitable.
Finally, Kimball does not devote enough attention to how the bourgeois values the passing of which he laments were subverted not by radical academics, poisonous journalists, and nihilistic, vulgar entertainers, but by entrepreneurs who found it a lucrative business. The rôle of such cynical promoters in foisting meretricious pop culture with its nostalgie de la boue off as fashionable youthful rebellion has yet fully to be explored. At a level once removed from this, the modern world of corporate business and the manufactured suburban environment have created a sense of rootlessness and spiritual vacuum contributing much to the effective "proletarianization" of what once was a solid middle class.
For a more expansive view, see Richard Weaver's "Ideas Have Consequences." There may be found a general ætiology of the disease which is here viewed in a more specific and farther advanced condition.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2006
An excellent book which should be required reading in our dumbed-down schools; however, Roger Kimball probably has a vocabulary and scholarship too intimidating for the current K-12 crowd. The NEA union thugs a/k/a "teachers" would spend most of their time in their dictionaries and reference books, as would many of the Tenured Radicals (the subject of another Kimball book) and their brainwashed students. Most of the material covered by Kimball in The Long March and his assessment of the 1960s is undeniable for those of us old enough to recall the period in question. Even those with some objectivity, who have only read about the 1960s nonsense covered in the book, could hardly deny the truth of Kimball's analysis (well, maybe not those who have bought into the "counter culture" or "didn't inhale" a la "pervert" Clinton, obviously represented by the one and two star Amazon reviews below). The Kimball book deserves some professional reviews and since none seemed to be available, permit me to provide the introduction to an interview by Bernard Chapin and a few words by Mr. Kimball about his background. Among the Amazon reviews, the William Muehlenberg (9/27/04) gets my vote for accuracy! Finally, many readers may wonder at the large number of Jewish (perhaps in name only) radicals present in the "wayward children of the 1960s". Reading The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements by Kevin MacDonald and the series of articles, Explaining Jews by Dennis Prager at: http://www.townhall.com/opinion/columns/dennisprager/2006/01/04/180966.html (Part I) may be of some assistance in understanding this group.
The Highest Criterion: An interview with Roger Kimball By Bernard Chapin
web posted March 17, 2003 Log on: http://www.enterstageright.com/archive/articles/0303/0303kimball.htm for the complete interview and more gems of wisdom!
Anthony Burgess once said that whenever he read Ulysses by James Joyce his reaction to his own writing became "why even bother?" I have had the same experience after reading the works of Roger Kimball. Mr. Kimball is the Managing Editor of The New Criterion but he is also one of the journal's most prolific writers. Reading his work is similar to reliving the great lectures one received in college (back when lectures weren't considered oppressive). He writes on all cultural topics but what I have found particularly impressive is his unforeseeable achievement of making artistic philistines like myself interested in topics within the art world. His work is stimulating for a variety of reasons but primarily it is due to Kimball, despite being infinitely learned, possessing a style that is highly readable. Amongst his lively sentences is an uncanny ability to place his subjects within the context of the larger issues that embody our culture.
We on the right often ask "Where are our tough guys? Why don't we stand up to these fabricators?" Read Kimball and you won't ask anymore. He never shirks from the duty of exposing the poseurs of the SRL (Self-Righteous Left-interviewer's term). Here before us, bespectacled and sporting a bowtie, is one of our greatest enforcers. Kimball, despite his civilized appearance, lands Tysonesque roundhouses with a greater strength and frequency than many of our other commentators put together. The libertine deconstructionists must lament the day he chose to forgo an academic career as he would have been much easier to deal with within the catty world of our universities. I'm fairly certain that the likes of Dr. Fish and Dr. Derrida quiver in slouched post-modern angles after being informed by an overpaid colleague that Roger Kimball has written something about them.
His work, The Long March, may be the finest non-fiction book that I've ever read. In it he meticulously dissects the great hysterics of 1960's whose moronic gallivanting across our universities and political system has brought so much misery to the west in the decades that followed. I hope that many of our readers are unfamiliar with Kimball so that the joy of gazing at the words and arguments of one of the last great knights of western civilization will lie ahead of them. You may think that what I am writing here is just hype but in the scrolls that follow you will see that my introduction is nothing compared to the glitter of the analysis below. Let us now, in this enterstageright.com exclusive, examine the Grand Examiner himself.
[Kimball's background in his own words] I was a graduate student at Yale and fully intended to embark on an academic career. When I moved to New York in the mid-1980s, I was hard at work on a dissertation on the philosophy of art. But once I started writing regularly for magazines like The New Criterion I found myself drifting further and further away from the culture of academia. Long before I published Tenured Radicals in 1990, it had become clear to me that, at many institutions, academic life in this country was a grim affair: warped by politics, distorted by hermetic "theorizing," disfigured by unreadable prose and pretentious posturing. It was not a world I aspired to join. I should also point out that, after the publication of Tenured Radicals, it was not a world I would be invited to join. That book, along with Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind, became a book that academics loved to hate. I was at first alarmed by the venom lavished on me and the book but I soon learned to see the comic side of the spectacle. In any event, it became crystal clear that an academic career was out of the question -- what university would have me? -- and I let the dissertation languish. I should say for the record, however, that I regret not having finished the degree, since I believe one should finish what one starts.