When America was Great
The Fighting Faith of Liberalism in Post-War America
By (author) Kevin Mattson
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When America was Great by Kevin Mattson
Book DescriptionA sweeping intellectual history that will make us rethink postwar politics and culture, When America Was Great profiles the thinkers and writers who crafted a new American liberal tradition in a conservative era -- from historians Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and C. Vann Woodward, to economist John Kenneth Galbraith and theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. A compelling tale that will redefine the word "liberal" for a new generation, Mattson retraces the intellectual journey of these towering figures. They served in the Second World War. They opposed communism but also wanted to make America's poor visible to the affluent society. Contrary to those who characterize liberals as naive or sentimental "bleeding hearts," they had a tough-minded and nuanced vision that stressed both human limitations and hope. They felt America should stand for something more than just a strong economy.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9780415947756
(229mm x 152mm x 22mm)
Publisher: Taylor & Francis Ltd
Publish Date: 21-Oct-2004
Country of Publication: United Kingdom
Books By Author Kevin Mattson
Rebels All!, Hardback (August 2008)
Shows how right-wing intellectuals have always, but in different ways, played to the populist and rowdy tendencies in America's political culture. This title compares the conservative intellectual movement to the radical utopians among the New Left of the 1960s and explains how conservatism has ingested central features of American culture.
Liberalism for a New Century, Paperback (June 2007)
Explores such topics as the classical liberal tradition, postmodernism's challenge to the American 'Enlightenment', the civil rights era, the influence of twentieth-century radicals on American liberalism, the 1950s, tolerance, the cold war, and whether liberalism should have a large and aggressive vision.
When America was Great, Paperback (October 2006)View all books by Kevin Mattson
Offers an intellectual history that aims to make us rethink postwar politics and culture. This title profiles the thinkers and writers who crafted a new American liberal tradition in a conservative era - from historians Arthur Schlesinger, Jr, and C Vann Woodward, to economist John Kenneth Galbraith and theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.
US Kirkus Review » Time was, in the antediluvian years before Reagan, that "liberal" was a handle a fighting man could cop to. Its devaluation into the much-maligned "L word," writes the author, owes as much to left as right. There's not much new in those observations or in the others Mattson (History/Ohio Univ.) makes here, which amounts to a quite readable survey of the golden age of America's policy-oriented public intellectuals: men (and a men's club it was) such as Arthur Schlesinger, Archibald MacLeish, Bernard De Voto, and John Kenneth Galbraith. They cut their teeth on WWII, when they found themselves playing influential roles in outfits like the Office of War Information (from which one memo sternly reprimanded Hollywood for its racist portrayal of Japanese soldiers: "This is not a racial war") and the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA, which taught Schlesinger, for one, that American power needed to be projected into the world. After the war, working through messengers such as the New York Post (now anything but liberal) and various journals of opinion, they offered close analyses of government policy and promoted social service and responsibility: thus their rejection of consumer culture for giving "priority to private satisfaction while denigrating public life." Their opinions were so diverse, writes Mattson, that their ideas of what constituted a "realistic" foreign policy could allow both for America's taking the lead in otherwise untrustworthy international organizations and for its taking pains to build international alliances-an ambivalence that played out in what has been called (unfairly, the author argues) the "liberals' war," Vietnam, but more recently in Iraq as well. Without playing the counterfactual card too explicitly, the author suggests that the world might have a much different shape today had the increasingly liberal-leaning JFK not been killed; then, perhaps, the New Left would not have turned against the Old Left, liberal anticommunism might have prevailed, and Reagan might not have arisen to call liberals bad names. A slight work about a bygone era, but with lessons to offer for our own time. (Kirkus Reviews)
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