Legacy of Dissent: Forty Years of Writing from Dissent Magazine

Legacy of Dissent: Forty Years of Writing from Dissent Magazine

by Nicolaus Mills

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``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.)
Library Journal
Since 1954, Dissent has belied the myth of a monolithic, dogmatic Left with fine writing by leading thinkers. What's remarkable about this collection is not just the scope of the essays but their frequent prescience. While some seem dated, most reinforce the "real" aims of social democracy: freedom, justice, and a decent life for all. Writers include founder Irving Howe, Michael Harrington, Ignazio Silone, Robert B. Reich, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Gnter Grass. Roy Medvedev's critique of Solzhenitsyn is especially valuable, and Erazim V. Khk's 1969 "Requiem for Utopia" is a clear-headed analysis of the failed Prague Spring. The section on race (led by Richard Wright's "White Man-Listen!") and feminism (featuring Cynthia Fuchs Epstein's 1975 "Perspectives on the Women's Movement") are probably the best. For those who feared the demise of the intellectual Left or who want perspective, these essays are essential. Academic libraries should purchase, as should other libraries with strong social sciences collections.-Donna L. Cole, Leeds P.L., Ala.

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