Review Essay: Reaching for Revolution
Radicals in America: The U.S. Left Since the Second World War

Wald, Alan
Date Written:  2015-11-01
Publisher:  Against the Current
Year Published:  2015
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX21296

Book review of Howard Brick's and Christopher Phelpss Radicals in America: The U.S. Left Since the Second World War.



Radicals in America employs a strategy of reperiodizing the postwar era in seven sections. Instead of the conventional thinking by decades - the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, etc. - the dates are 1939-48, 1949-59, 1960-64, 1965-73, 1973-80, 1980-89, and 1990 to the present. Brick and Phelps also introduce each segment through portraits of authentic rebels expressive of the period.

When we add in the book's cogent Introduction describing the "Margin and Mainstream" perspective, and its magisterial if concise Conclusion addressing "Radicalism’s Future," we have the architecture for an intricately layered narrative. This book can be seen partly as a chronicle of repressed national memory, even as it makes us reassess what we thought we knew about postwar radicalism and provides "a storehouse of past radicalisms [that] may provide creative inspiration" for the unscripted future.

The portraits at the lead of each of the seven core chapters replicate the pattern set by the one of Winfred Lynn. Thus personal histories are recreated against a broader social backdrop to show the meaning of living a radical life, in addition to the ways in which behavior is influenced by unfolding events and context. In these brief chronicles we can sometimes see sobering parallels between then and now that may offer insight into our own predicament of margin and mainstream.

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