cover image The Death and Rebirth of American Radicalism

The Death and Rebirth of American Radicalism

Stanley Aronowitz. Routledge, $41.95 (232pp) ISBN 978-0-415-91241-9

In a dense tableau of far-left factions and subfactions, Aronowitz (Roll Over Beethoven and The Politics of Identity) traces the political decline of radical ideas ""that once sent terror into the hearts of America's corporate rulers."" According to Aronowitz, the death knell of radicalism began in the 1950s with the loss of faith in an organized left stemming largely from the Stalinist reign of terror. Adding to the wounds was the New Left legacy of the 1960s embodied in the slogan of not trusting anybody over 30, an attitude that engendered a collective amnesia that could have prevented historical errors. By 1973, the New Left was virtually dead, leading only to weak splinter groups and single-issue organizations. The result leaves the left indistinguishable from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party when referred to in the press. Aronowitz laments the current pervasive public silence about radical and revolutionary ideas expounded historically from the founding fathers to Martin Luther King. Instead, says Aronowitz, the business of government has become business, progressive taxation is being dismantled, universal health care and assaults on inequality are branded nonsense. Aronowitz proposes not socialism but a ""radical democracy"" that restructures politics and institutions in order to permit broad popular control and foster conditions hospitable for both satisfying individual and collective life. Long in the trenches himself, Aronowitz brings masterful insights to this eminent documentation of formerly prophetic but now sleepy radical movements. But the future is not dead, he maintains, it is just resting. (Dec.)