Can the mind confront a harder task than to imagine—truly, deeply to imagine—circumstances radically at variance with those of the immediate moment? Such an effort must be especially hard for intellectuals, who tend to impose theories drawn from the present upon a helpless past. I have in mind here the decade of the 1950s, close enough in time but separated from us by an intellectual and emotional chasm. My intent is neither to defend nor assault the thinkers of that decade, but rather to
evoke its distinctive provenance and tone, in the hope of never having to encounter it again.
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