Letters of Sidney Hook: Democracy, Communism, and the Cold War

Letters of Sidney Hook: Democracy, Communism, and the Cold War

Letters of Sidney Hook: Democracy, Communism, and the Cold War

Letters of Sidney Hook: Democracy, Communism, and the Cold War

Synopsis

Sidney Hook (1902-1989) was a philosopher, a college professor, America's leading disciple of John Dewey, and, during the 1930s, perhaps America's most significant explicator of Karl Marx. He was also for many years arguably the country's most astute and important anti-communist intellectual. This volume is the first devoted to his private letters. Selected from the voluminous collection of his papers at the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford University and spanning the years 1929 to 1987, the letters contain Hook's views on such subjects as war and peace, Marxism and communism, the Soviet Union, the Spanish Civil War, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War. Hook was a prolific letter writer, and he corresponded with a great variety of individuals. Some were strangers who had written to him concerning an article or book review he had just published, others were prominent intellectuals - among them Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., to name just a few - and still others were public officials. Hook saw himself, above all, as a teacher, and as a teacher he felt it his duty to discuss with anyone who would listen his conception of the obligations of democratic citizenship. Hook had enormous faith in the power of education and reason and in the soundness of America's democratic institutions and values. That faith is reflected in these letters.

Excerpt

The letters in this book were selected from the mammoth collection of Sidney Hook papers in the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford University. This volume does not claim to be a definitive and complete edition of Hook's letters. It contains only those unpublished letters that discuss the critical issues of democracy, war and peace, pacifism and disarmament, communism, and the Cold War, and Hook's response to many of the most important events of his lifetime, including the Spanish Civil War, the Waldorf Conference, McCarthyism, and the Vietnam War. It is in these areas that Hook made the greatest impact on American life.

Hook also published many letters on these topics in the New York Times, the New Republic, and other places. Because of the constraints of space, these have not been included in this book. Nor, for the same reason, does this book contain any of Hook's fascinating letters on euthanasia, religion, pragmatism, and the campus turmoil of the 1960s. Finally, segments in the letters dealing with personal matters, such as health, finances, or family, have been deleted.

Hook's papers, well organized alphabetically and topically, consist of nearly four thousand folders that contain letters and manuscripts covering all aspects of his private and public life. Nearly three thousand of these folders contain Hook's correspondence from 1920 until his death in 1989. They are awaiting use by a future biographer of this remarkably prolific and energetic philosopher-polemicist. Hook's autobiography, Out of Step: An Unquiet Life in the 20th Century (1987), provides the historical context for his correspondence. It can be supplemented by the essays in the two festschrifts honoring Hook: Paul Kurtz, ed., Sidney Hook and the Con-

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