cover image Legacy of Dissent: 40 Years of Writing from Dissent Magazine

Legacy of Dissent: 40 Years of Writing from Dissent Magazine

Nicolaus Mills. Simon & Schuster, $16 (463pp) ISBN 978-0-671-88879-4

``Dissent is a magazine for people who know how to worry,'' declares magazine coeditor Walzer, and indeed, its democratic socialism has long eschewed mountaintop certainty for stubborn engagement. Mills (editor of Arguing Immigration) has organized the 31 meaty essays by seven themes. The section on ``Social Vision'' sometimes has an air of quaintness, but even back in 1954, Dissent founder Irving Howe warned (with Lewis Coser) that ``noneconomic motives can lead to human troubles.'' Political essayists William Julius Wilson on the ``truly disadvantaged'' and Todd Gitlin on identity politics show insight, not dogma. Two still-famous essays, Norman Mailer's ``The White Negro'' and Paul Goodman's ``Growing Up Absurd,'' anchor the ``Culture and Society'' section, but more recent efforts by Paul Berman and Marshall Berman stand up well. Contributors like Cornel West, Jean L. Cohen and Andrei Sinyavsky animate sections on ``Race,'' ``Feminism'' and ``The Cold War and After.'' The three entries on labor-Mills on a 1967 grape strike, Robert B. Reich on the (still unmet) need for ``higher-valued production'' and David Brody on the resurgence of anti-unionism-hint at an issue too often ignored in current political discourse. Before his death in 1993, Howe left the book's closing essay, which wisely advised his readers: don't despair, think long-term. (Dec.)