The Intellectual in Mass Society

The Intellectual in Mass Society

This is an exciting book—though not at all the book its title seems to promise. “The New Radicalism” is a phrase woefully ill-suited to characterize so diverse and bizarre a cast of characters as Jane Addams, Randolph Bourne, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Colonel Edward M. House, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Norman Mailer. Mr. Lasch uses “liberalism” and “radicalism” interchangeably, on the curious grounds that “in the heyday of the new radicalism, men of advanced social opinions had used the terms ‘socialism,’ ‘radicalism,’ ‘liberalism,’ and ‘progressivism’ with a certain disregard of their various shades of meaning.” He is interested not in radicalism as a tradition of disciplined, ideological politics, but rather in a complex of ideas and emotions common to a great many men and women “of advanced social opinions” in twentieth century America, ideas and emotions which can only loosely be described as “radical.” Nor is the “1889-1963” of the title, intended perhaps as a concession to the appetite of the reading public for contemporary subjects, a fair index of the book’s contents; fully two thirds of The New Radicalism in America deals with the period before 1920. And the subtitle, “the intellectual as a social type,” suggests a sociological concern with such problems as that of generalizing from particular intellectuals to the class, which is in fact conspicuously absent.

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