The New Left: A History

The New Left: A History

The New Left: A History

The New Left: A History

Synopsis

In his latest publication, William L. O'Neill presents a concise critical history of the New Left, the thinking, people, and events that helped shape the 1960s in America, and its principal heir, the Academic Left. The first two chapters of this lively, interpretive narrative relate the history of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), an organization that despite such well-publicized actions as the first mass protest in Washington against the Vietnam War and the student strike that shut down Columbia University, was unable to expand beyond its student base or survive a factional split. Next covered is the theatrical Left, notably those at the head of the Yippie movement who skillfully manipulated the mainstream media to garner enormous publicity for their stunts and staged events but whose movement, like the SDS, failed to survive the decade.

Chapter Four follows the major figures in the story-Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden, the Weathermen, Timothy Leary and others, and sifts through various theories to conclude why and how the New Left burned out so quickly. Finally, Chapter Five addresses the legacy of the New Left in the rise of the Academic Left, which, while riddled with ironies, remains entrenched in academe today.

Excerpt

Every generation writes its own history for the reason that it sees the past in the foreshortened perspective of its own experience. This has surely been true of the writing of American history. The practical aim of our historiography is to give us a more informed sense of where we are going by helping us understand the road we took in getting where we are. As the nature and dimensions of American life are changing, so too are the themes of our historical writing. Today's scholars are hard at work reconsidering every major aspect of the nation's past: its politics, diplomacy, economy, society, recreation, mores and values, as well as status, ethnic, race, sexual, and family relations. The lists of series titles that appear on the inside covers of this book will show at once that our historians are ever broadening the range of their studies.

The aim of this series is to offer our readers a survey of what today's historians are saying about the central themes and aspects of the American past. To do this, we have invited to write for the series only scholars who have made notable contributions to the respective fields in which they are working. Drawing on primary and secondary materials, each volume presents a factual and narrative account of its particular subject, one that affords readers a basis for perceiving its larger dimensions and importance. Conscious that readers respond to the closeness and immediacy of a subject, each of our authors seeks to restore the past as an actual . . .

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