The Intellectuals and McCarthy: The Radical Specter

By Michael Paul Rogin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO LOCKEAN MORALISM AND CONSERVATIVE IDEOLOGY I

The pluralists find the roots of McCarthyism in leftwing radical movements that preceded the New Deal. These movements allegedly shared with McCarthyism a common approach to the world--one that was ideological in a particular rural and "populist" sense. This argument rests on a view of the rational and instrumental nature of industrial society. It rests on the belief that in pre-New Deal America a moralistic agrarian radicalism confronted instrumental and pragmatic classes allied with industrialization. This perspective misrepresents the nature of the industrializing ethic and therefore of the American liberal consensus because it attempts to split apart moral and pragmatic concerns. The bearers of industrialization were not instrumental automatons in the abstract but particular Americans. Both because they shared the Lockean ethic and because they desired to defend their positions of power, these men were no less moralistic than their opponents. Populism was hardly a moralistic flight from an environment in which everyone else was concerned with facts. The movement made an effort to come to grips with the transformation of American society. Simply because Populism faced the changes America was undergoing while other groups in part denied or repressed them, it is not there-

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