YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

October 17, 2016

Is there a liberal consensus?

Women's Strike for Peace, NYC 1969. Getty Images

Women’s Strike for Peace, NYC 1969. Getty Images

I was taught that the correct answer on the PhD oral exams was to claim “yes”; that since WW2, there was agreement regarding the welfare state of the New Deal, including its turn toward emphasizing social relationships as the sine qua non of a healthy society. See https://clarespark.com/2013/08/01/power-relationships-identity/ or https://clarespark.com/2010/01/13/three-moderates-judt-posner-ware/.

Classical liberals were invisible, as were the Stalinist underpinnings of this “liberal” line. So when I read historian James B. Gilbert’s summary of postwar political history, Another Chance: Postwar America 1945-68 (Knopf, 1981) eventually I got the message of postwar liberalism/social democracy. Yes, there was majority agreement that conservatives were all crazed McCarthy-ite reactionaries (similar to the conservative Catholic Church); that we missed the boat by not “negotiating” with the willing Soviet Union; and that the 60s movements were necessary, but inadequate to solve the vexed question of (white male supremacy). Hence we need a real revolution (this explains the title, Another Chance…. ).

Although the claim that structural reform was necessary to realize the aims of peaceniks, women, and blacks, was saved until the very last chapters, in retrospect, I could see that Professor Gilbert’s popular book (un-footnoted) was typical of the New Left generation. Gilbert, formerly a full professor at the liberal University of Maryland, now emeritus, like so many other (unconscious?) Stalinists following the tumultuous 1960s, may not have even seen that he was following the lead of the Popular Front against Fascism. https://clarespark.com/2015/04/17/the-ongoing-appeal-of-the-leftist-dominated-popular-front-against-fascism/.

I finally understand the message of Dr. Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick, 1962). http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/26/the-revolt-against-the-masses-and-the-roots-of-modern-liberalism.html.

Revolt Against Masses, Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Revolt Against Masses, Hulton Archive/Getty Images

 

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