Grand Designs

"Liberty, the daughter of oppression, after having brought forth several fair children, as Riches, Arts, Learning, Trade, and many others, was at last delivered of her youngest daughter, called FACTION."
—Jonathan Swift

There are many things wrong with this book, beginning with its title. The Liberal Mind is not what this book is about. (Nor were the 1940's and 1950's really a Conservative Age—but let this pass.) It is about the intellection of the New York left. Liberality of mind is a desirable condition—yes, also (and perhaps especially) for political conservatives. It is an overall desideratum and not a term properly applicable to the designation of specific conventicles of intellectuals. Professor Pells's book is about the closely circumscribed and often cramped and airless circle of the latter. There were all kinds of men and women among them, good and bad, but in the 1940's and 1950's their influence on the course of the Republic and on the life of its people was nonexistent. Pells argues that their ideas were important; that, as is the case with certain writers, thinkers, artists, etc., they were the antennae of the race; that their arguments were forerunners of what would happen later. "In effect, the intellectual skirmishes which took place between 1955 and 1960 were rehearsals for the full-dress battles that...

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