Commentary in American Life

Commentary in American Life

Commentary in American Life

Commentary in American Life

Synopsis

Founded by the American Jewish Committee in 1945 as a monthly journal of "significant thought and opinion, Jewish affairs and contemporary issues," Commentary magazine has through the years had a far-reaching impact on American politics and culture. Commentary in American Life traces this influence over time, especially in creating the neoconservative movement. The authors of each chapter also consider the ways the magazine shaped and reflected major cultural and literary trends in the United States. The end result offers a full accounting of one of the most important journals of American political thought, providing insight into the development of American collective politics and culture over the last six decades. Contributors include: Nathan Abrams, Birbeck College; John Ehrman, Nathan Glazer, Harvard University; Thomas L. Jeffers, Marquette University; George H. Nash, Richard Gid Powers, College of Staten Island and the CUNY Graduate Center; Fred Siegel, The Cooper Union; Terry Teachout, Ruth R. Wisse, Harvard University; and the editor.

Excerpt

Murray Friedman

It was Irving Kristol, Ruth Wisse reminds us, who said that Commentary was one of the most important magazines in Jewish history. This may be an exaggeration, but not by much. Literary critic Richard Pells writes more soberly, “While other magazines have certainly had their bursts of glory—even Golden Ages—in which one has had to read them to know what was going on in New York, or Washington, or the world—no other journal of the past half century has been so consistently influential, or so central to the major debates that have transformed the political and intellectual life of the United States.”

The Commentary we are most familiar with today is widely seen as an organ of American political conservatism. Although this is so, from its beginning the magazine had broader scope and purposes, as indeed it continues to have today. Commentary was founded by the American Jewish Committee in 1945 as a monthly journal of “significant thought and opinion, Jewish affairs and contemporary issues.” It was modeled on the Partisan Review, a magazine of somewhat similar style and sensibility, although the latter had no formal Jewish institutional ties. a youthful Nor-

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