Designing the Industrial State: The Intellectual Pursuit of Collectivism in America, 1880-1940

Designing the Industrial State: The Intellectual Pursuit of Collectivism in America, 1880-1940

Designing the Industrial State: The Intellectual Pursuit of Collectivism in America, 1880-1940

Designing the Industrial State: The Intellectual Pursuit of Collectivism in America, 1880-1940

Excerpt

Sometime in the early 1960's the popular language of American politics became useless. It no longer made sense to describe the American political or economic system as a decentralized democracy of competing pluralistic groups, or a small-town democracy writ large. It became more difficult to claim that a man could make his way to success or fulfillment without first bargaining away his liberty to some institution. The awareness that political language itself might be the foundation of a myth often provoked the accusation that the history of American thought since 1890 had been one of intentional obfuscation. Moreover, if the rote language of popular politics described nothing real, then perhaps political reality held the secrets of unfinished revolutions or discarded possibilities for truly radical change. Going a step further, it was tempting for historians to think that intellectuals had somehow become the willing instruments of an increasingly bureaucratized and static political system. That clandestine government organizations were found to be financing important and respectable magazines and conferences seemed to confirm the suspicion that prestige and money could, with little difficulty, turn intellectuals into ideological agents.

Perhaps the greatest impetus for the decline of faith in older political concepts was the Cold War. By turning almost all . . .

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