The Liberal Persuasion: Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and the Challenge of the American Past

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For more than half a century, the celebrated historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., has been the guiding force of American liberalism, both intellectually and in practice. The author of many critically acclaimed books, Schlesinger vigorously defended FDR's New Deal policies in his earliest writings and later served as a close advisor to President John F. Kennedy. In this volume, twenty of today's most eminent historians join forces to explore Schlesinger's unique brand of liberalism--one that has steered clear of ...

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Overview

For more than half a century, the celebrated historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., has been the guiding force of American liberalism, both intellectually and in practice. The author of many critically acclaimed books, Schlesinger vigorously defended FDR's New Deal policies in his earliest writings and later served as a close advisor to President John F. Kennedy. In this volume, twenty of today's most eminent historians join forces to explore Schlesinger's unique brand of liberalism--one that has steered clear of ideological extremism and social fragmentation, favoring instead pluralism and the pragmatic use of state power. By engaging the reader in various aspects of his career and intellectual pursuits, these essays offer an exhilarating journey through American political history, from the Jackson era to multiculturalism, while demonstrating historical writing at its best.

The volume opens with essays on Schlesinger as a historian and a political participant, contributed by William E. Leuchtenburg, Hugh Thomas, George Kennan, John Kenneth Galbraith, and John Morton Blum. The influence of the Jackson era is explored by Robert Remini, Sean Wilentz, and Jean V. Matthews. In a section on modern liberalism and governance, such topics as the New Deal, the Great Society, and the fate of liberalism under the Carter administration are discussed by Alan Brinkley, Kathleen D. McCarthy, Fred Siegel, Leo P. Ribuffo, and Richard C. Wade. Betty Miller Unterberger and Ronald Steel comment on liberalism and the Cold War. Louis Menand and Eugene D. Genovese explore ideological controversies within liberalism, including pragmatic liberalism and relativism and multiculturalism. In the final section, George Cotkin, Neil Jumonville, and Sir Isaiah Berlin write on three figures whom Schlesinger greatly admired: William James, Henry Steel Commager, and Edmund Wilson.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and longtime political participant and public intellectual, Schlesinger has studied major movements in American politics and defended American liberalism from the New Deal era to our own era, providing pragmatic approaches to political issues and viewing the national government as a means of preserving the economy. He struggled with Marxists in the 1930s and 1940s and multiculturalists in the 1980s and 1990s. Diggins (history, CUNY) has collected essays from 20 eminent scholars supporting and opposing Schlesinger's work and its liberal understanding of history. Essays by William Leuchtenburg, Eugene Genovese, Alan Brinkley, Ronald Steel, and others demonstrate historians' struggles to reach a philosophical understanding of America and the impact of such understanding on governance in our society. A central theme is what the historian's intellectual, political, and academic roles should be. Recommended for public and academic libraries.Steven Puro, St. Louis Univ.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691048291
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 10/13/1997
  • Pages: 310
  • Product dimensions: 6.31 (w) x 9.47 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Vital Historian 3
Ch. 1 The Historian and the Public Realm 19
Ch. 2 The Historian as Political Advisor 43
Ch. 3 The Historian and the Cycles of History 54
Ch. 4 The Lessons of an Historian 62
Ch. 5 Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.: Tory Democrat 67
Ch. 6 The Age of Jackson and Its Impact 75
Ch. 7 Jacksonian Abolitionist: The Conversion of William Leggett 84
Ch. 8 Race, Sex, and the Dimensions of Liberty in Antebellum America 107
Ch. 9 The Two World Wars and the Idea of the State 127
Ch. 10 Women, Politics, Philanthropy: Some Historical Origins of the Welfare State 142
Ch. 11 The New Left, the New Right, and the New Deal 151
Ch. 12 "Malaise" Revisited: Jimmy Carter and the Crisis of Confidence 164
Ch. 13 Historical Analogies and Public Policy: The Black and Immigrant Experience in Urban America 185
Ch. 14 Woodrow Wilson and the Cold War 199
Ch. 15 America after the Cold War: Global Order, Democracy, and Domestic Consent 214
Ch. 16 Christopher Lasch's Quarrel with Liberalism 233
Ch. 17 Black Studies as Academic Discipline and Political Struggle 251
Ch. 18 William James and the Strenuous Responsibility of the Liberal Intellectual 263
Ch. 19 Henry Steele Commager's Activist History 277
Ch. 20 Edmund Wilson at Oxford 301
Selected Bibliography of Works by Schlesinger 311
Contributors 313
Acknowledgments 315
Index 317
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