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The metaphor has run its course.

Other Titles by David McKnight

Who and what constituted America was up for grabs in the s. Cultural disruption was no longer the exclusive province of little magazines, the occasional seminar room, and fringe political parties. With civil rights, anti-war protests, and the flowering counterculture, it was broadcast into American living rooms everyday on the nightly news.

Rethinking progressive ideas in Australia

The New Left was the most significant force in terms of reshaping American culture. When Falwell founded his Moral Majority organization in , it enrolled 2. I consider you a traitor to your sex, an Aunt Tom. Second, they invoked religion, gender, and race, three of the most bitterly contested fronts in the culture wars conflict. And third, they show that behind the high drama were high stakes, from the demotion of the proverbial male breadwinner to disagreements about the very nature of social progress. As a guide to the late twentieth century culture wars, Hartman is unrivalled. This argument is attractive, especially if you lean left.

The culture fractured but was then reconstituted into a more diverse and inclusive whole. This explanation is neat but ultimately unsatisfying. Fox News, for example, has provided a non-stop, hour televised arena for the culture wars ever since McKnight, however, has decided that the dangers of conservatism — xenophobia, authoritarianism, sexism — are outweighed or at least balanced by its virtues: belief in community, the family, philanthropy, tradition and conservation, and the defense of the human species against threats posed by genetic engineering, all of which he sees threatened by unfettered capitalism.

He is therefore a conservative in the liberal mould of Edmund Burke conservative.

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Societies would be better off remaking themselves to be more rational, but to force rationality upon them rather than convince them by persuasion is worse than doing nothing. The reason is that there are certain irreducible elements of human nature — sentiments and impressions, Smith and Hume called them in the 18th century, inherited modes of cognition some evolutionary psychologists say today, emotion and morality as McKnight has it — that make it impossible that human behavior will ever be fully rational.

Many will feel that Beyond Left and Right risks into a wishy-washy do- goodism. McKnight likes the freedom of liberalism but not its selfishness; the egalitarianism of socialism but not its conformism and utopianism; and the pragmatic caution and nurturing morality of conservatism but not its intolerance and authoritarianism.


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Most would agree that these qualities are indeed the most likeable and dislikeable aspects of the major political orientations; but that does not mean that we can simply pick and choose the best of them, and assume the result will be a coherent political philosophy. The book also leaves largely untouched the looming question of depoliticisation: the mass withdrawal by many sectors of the population from political parties and institutional politics. What pool of potential recruits is McKnight addressing? Beyond the swelling government bureaucracies, in community centers, retirement villagers, the blogosphere and mobile phone networks, in the proliferating specialized leisure, ethnic and religious interest groups, people are working out new modes of sociality, ranging from inventing new spiritualities to planning suicide bombings.

Fewer and fewer citizens connect with the representative organs of government, relics from the last two centuries that are increasingly technocratic and plutocratic, and whose actions have less to do with responding to public demand, than with manufacturing it. By that measure, it succeeds admirably. Related Papers.

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