Arguing the World: The New York Intellectuals in Their Own Words

Joseph Dorman, Author
Joseph Dorman, Author Free Press $25 (240p) ISBN 978-0-684-86279-8
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-1-4391-3650-8
Paperback - 222 pages - 978-0-226-15814-3
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Based on independent filmmaker Dorman's 1999 PBS documentary, this gossipy gabfest traces the evolving political beliefs and careers of four influential New York intellectuals--literary critic Irving Howe, political analyst Irving Kristol, and sociologists Daniel Bell and Nathan Glazer. All four were anti-Stalinist leftists attending City College in the 1930s and early '40s; all were involved with Partisan Review, the bastion of literary modernism and independent Marxist thought; and all later shed their radical political faith. But here, their paths diverged: while Howe remained a democratic socialist, Bell, Glazer and Kristol turned into what their critics call ""neoconservatives,"" mounting a critique of the counterculture and liberal social policies like affirmative action (which, in yet another turnaround, Glazer now supports). Filled with the voices of the four protagonists, as well as those of Tom Hayden, Alfred Kazin, William Buckley Jr., Diana Trilling, Norman Podhoretz, Saul Bellow, Todd Gitlin and other participants in a vanished New York intellectual scene, the book follows the foursome through controversies over U.S. entry into WWII, Sen. McCarthy's anticommunist witchhunt, the war on poverty and late '60s campus uprisings, when all four, as middle-aged professors, clashed sharply with their radicalized students. Linking oral testimony with informative commentaries, Dorman wistfully champions the foursome as the embodiment of a lost public intellectual life in an age of academic specialization and identity politics. Whether one agrees with Dorman's conclusions or not, his text is a useful and lively addition to the literature about this generation of New York intellectuals. (Aug.)
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