Seasons of Rebellion: Protest and Radicalism in Recent America

Seasons of Rebellion: Protest and Radicalism in Recent America

Seasons of Rebellion: Protest and Radicalism in Recent America

Seasons of Rebellion: Protest and Radicalism in Recent America

Excerpt

Everyone knows that recent years in America have been a time of turbulence and dissent, of protest and radicalism, of calls for drastic changes in social institutions, political power, group consciousness and individual value systems. People with little historical awareness, their memories fixed by the quiescent fifties, may believe such upheaval unprecedented and wish to initiate a search for culprits causing all the trouble. Others more knowledgeable know that similar eras of turbulence occurred in the past and are well aware that ubiquitous "outside agitators" have been perennially blamed as the cause of unrest, yet even they were largely unprepared for the passion, violence, and scope of recent agitation. Academics of various sorts, historians and social scientists, commentators for journals of opinion and newspaper columnists--at the beginning of the sixties most were under the sway of a theory which believed the welfare state, created by the New Deal, to be the final result of national history, a splendid mechanism for adjusting conflict between competing interest groups. Of course there were still social inequities, poverty and unequal educational, economic, and political opportunities for some segments of the population--most notably those with darker skin color--but it was believed that eventually progress and the active intervention of the state would easily take care of them.

Today such a theory, if not completely invalid, is much harder to defend and much less widely held. The protest and radicalism that began in the early sixties with the sit-ins and freedom rides, expanded from Berkeley to many college campuses, and became nationwide with opposition to the Vietnam War, has seriously shaken the idea that a beneficent national state can adequately cope with all social problems. Very simply, too . . .

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