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Radical Legacies

What use is thinking? This study addresses the ways in which modern American thinkers have intervened in the public sphere and attempted to mediate relations between social and political institutions and cultural and intellectual production. Chapters on both well-known (Henry Adams, Langston Hughes, C. Wright Mills, Angela Davis) and neglected (Randolph Bourne, Mary McCarthy, Paul Goodman) public intellectuals considers how these figures have address a range of problems, including the dangers and difficulty of critical dissent thought during wartime, the contemporary crisis of the humanities under neoliberalism, the legacy of American anti-intellectualism, academic professionalism, and the perils of consumer culture and popular tastes. This book reviews in as critically sympathetic a manner as possible a select few of the minor and major currents of twentieth-century American radical thinking in order to see where they might take us, and how they inflect our current social and intellectual predicaments. Arguing that any "use-value" theory of intellectual production is limiting, Radical Legacies endeavors to maintain and expand a space and reassert an argument for the importance of sustained critical reflection on our collective dilemmas today. It assesses a practice of thought that is engaged, committed, involved, and timely, without being necessarily "practical" or even useful.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Introduction: The Uselessness of American Intellectuals. Chapter One: Be Free!: Globalism and Democratic Pedagogy in Henry James and Henry Adams Chapter Two: World War I and the Origins of the National Security State: Mary Antin, Randolph Bourne, and Emma Goldman Chapter Three: Mary McCarthy's Swizzle Sticks: Food, Drink, and Consumerism in the American Depression Chapter Four: Herman Melville's Cold War: Re-reading C. L. R. James's Mariners, Renegades, and Castaways Chapter Five: Turning Poetry into Bread: Langston Hughes, Travel-writing, and the Professionalization of African-American Literary Production Chapter Six: Legacies of the New Left: Paul Goodman, C. Wright Mills, and Angela Davis Conclusion: Thought during Wartime: American Public Intellectuals in the Twenty-first Century Notes Bibliography

About the Author

Arthur Redding is professor of English at York University in Toronto.


American literary historian Arthur Redding presents six essays on such radical American thinkers as Henry James, Henry Adams, Herman Melville, Langston Hughes, Emma Goldman, Paul Goodman, C. Wright Mills, and Angela Davis (Redding calls Davis 'one of the most compelling activist-philosophers alive'). These public intellectuals have raised deeply disturbing concerns about conservative tendencies in US culture and politics. Redding considers his subjects to be 'radical' in their formulation of hopeless Utopian causes such as prison abolition, pacifism, gender equity, racial equality, and economic justice. The word 'legacies' in the title alludes to the idea that the thinking of these writers is radical rather than reformist. They do not accommodate themselves to any of the conservative policies of the US government. Redding's aim is to keep alive some of this reflective resistance to, as he writes in chapter 1, US 'neo-imperial barbarism.' Redding reminds readers of the fact, so often ignored, that the US has achieved many progressive socialist goals, among them the eight-hour workday, the elimination of child labor, the extension of the vote to women and minorities, recognition of the right to collective bargaining, social security, public education, and Keynesian economics. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. * CHOICE *

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