Politics of Authenticity
Liberalism, Christianity, and the New Left in America
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Publisher: Columbia University Press
Number of Pages: 520
In the 1960s a left-wing movement emerged in the United States that not only crusaded against social and economic exploitation, but also confronted the problem of personal alienation in everyday life. These new radicals - young, white, raised in relative affluence - struggled for peace, equality and social justice. Their struggle was cultural as well as political, a search for meaning and authenticity that marked a new phase in the long history of American radicalism. This text tells the story of the new left, illustrating the spiritual dimension of student activism. The author provides an account of how this radical movement developed in a campus environment - the University of Texas at Austin, one of the most important new left centres in the United States - while linking local developments to the national scene. Rossinow argues that the movement was deeply entwined with a personal quest for authenticity. This search reached a fever pitch during the decades of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s as a moral imperative that intersected with the struggle for social justice. He shows the continuity between the religious search for meaning in the 1950s and the secular search for wholeness and realness in the new left and the counterculture. Rossinow also demonstrates the pivotal role played by the civil rights movement in forging these connections in the minds of white American youth and explains the new left's role as a force acting on its own to foment rebellion in white America. This study links the diverse strands of radical movements, from women's liberation to civil rights. Rossinow revises traditional images of radicalism and offers fresh insights on the gendered nature of the search for authenticity, and the reaction of feminists to issues of masculinity among radical men.
Rossinow's brilliant analysis of the new left as an American search for authenticity brings together any strands of interpretation which have until now been explored in isolation.