Portraits and Profiles-a Foreword

Portraits and Profiles-a Foreword

This issue of DISSENT is devoted to reports and interpretations—mostly reports—of the American scene. We have asked a number of writers to describe those aspects of our national life with which they are most familiar. What they wrote, we have printed.

In the nature of things, the picture that will emerge from this issue cannot be said to be “well-rounded” or “balanced.” Many significant areas of American life had obviously to be neglected. The “America” of this issue is not the whole truth; the portrait drawn here is fragmentary, unfinished and, at some points, contradictory. But that seems to us eminently desirable.

It is desirable because there is an inherent value in any description of social life that is done by a man who really tries to see, regardless of whether it confirms or damages his intellectual preconceptions. It is desirable because there is, in this country, more than enough self congratulation and a wilful turning away from unpleasant facts. And it is desirable because any socialist who is intelligent and honest with himself cannot simply keep hauling out an old schematic diagram of “capitalism,” which no doubt continues to have many important points of connection with American life in the fifties but also fails to connect at other and equally important points.


Socialist thought provides us with an imaginative and moral horizon.

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