There are grey moments when I charge myself with some small responsibility for the endless chatter about “conformity” that has swept the country. Six years ago, when McCarthyism was at its worst and the response of many intellectuals somewhat less than heroic, I wrote a sharp polemic for Partisan Review called “This Age of Conformity.” Much of what appeared there still seems to me true, but I could not then know that, unintentionally, I was helping to make the outcry against conformity into a catch-word of our conformist culture.
Despite a small circulation, Partisan Review is an influential magazine. Editors and “opinion-makers” read it to keep up with the latest thoughts and moods of the intellectuals; it serves, also, as one of the sources for which middlebrow culture appropriates serious ideas. No one is surprised these days to find a notion or phrase migrating directly from the quarterlies to a cigarette ad, since the man writing the ad may well be an intellectual manqué who sneers at Partisan Review yet dreams of having it accept his story about the spiritual ordeals of Madison Avenue. As with cigarette ads, so with denunciations of conformity. And to...
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