THE DEMAND FOR DEEPER CHANGE in American society is an encouraging sign. Liberals, affirming their faith in the country, concede “the system” remains obdurate and search for policies beyond the New Deal. New Leftists, despairing of “the system,” may yet move on from rhetoric and anger to disciplined action—and, then again, may not. Our man on the Democratic Left at least shares the liberal’s concern and the radical’s frustration. For all those along the political spectrum the question is not what to do, but how to do it.
Middle-class professionals, inhabiting a territory that touches the ghetto at one end and the gold coast at the other, have been increasingly troubled as to how to make the most effective personal contribution to social change. Given the demands of work and family, few can “give up everything” to become full-time activists. Yet, simply to “give up evenings” in behalf of Eugene McCarthy, the preparation of an ad in the Times, the organization of a peace march on Washington—all that seems not enough by half. They fall back, then, on their work. Middle-aged professionals and scholars are paid, after all, by “the system” to teach students, address readers, treat patients, defend clients, design buildings. Hopefully, through one’s work and after work, one could say and do something relevant about the condition of American life. I can teach “conventional history” and work hard at getting history teachersorganized in a union. Or I can teach “radical history” and work hard at infusing my students with the sense that they must do now what the Abolitionists did then.