From Publishers Weekly
About halfway through his thorough and often engaging look at the American left, Diggins ( Mussolini and Fascism ) refers to his subject as "what never happens twice." This brings to mind lightning, which strikes quickly and never in the same place twice. And so it seems with the history of the American left, which Diggins divides here into four periods, or generations--the Lyrical Left, the Old Left, the New Left and the Academic Left. Each phase was relatively brief, and "there was little historical continuity and even less political sympathy" among the generations. Diggins is admirably comprehensive; he discusses the left as an ally of the working class and assesses the role of blacks, women and artists in the movement. He also points to the "values of the American Enlightenment," liberalism and the pragmatism of John Dewey, as possibly halting "the decline and fall" of the left, a conclusion potentially surprising to some while comforting to others. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
In this expanded version of Diggins's The American Left in the Twentieth Century (HBJ, 1973), Diggins retains his basic premises: that the American Left was based on native radicalism and only came to Marxism later and that its intellectual history can be discussed in terms of generations--Lyrical, Old, New, and Academic. His interpretation of the first three remains substantially the same, while he describes the Academic Left as being composed of New Left students who became academics in the 1970s and now form the "most significant ideological presence on the American campus." Readers looking for a more comprehensive history should go to The Encyclopedia of the American Left (LJ 6/15/90). Diggins's discussion of the Academic Left makes this more up-to-date than James Weinstein's Ambiguous Legacy (LJ 11/15/75), which ends with the New Left. It also makes it relevant to the contemporary controversy about "political correctness." For all political and intellectual history collections.- Jonathan Miller, Rochester Inst. of Technology, N.Y.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.