Radicals in America
The U.S. Left since the Second World War
Part of Cambridge Essential Histories
- Date Published: July 2015
- availability: Available
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9780521731331
Radicals in America is a masterful history of controversial dissenters who pursued greater equality, freedom and democracy - and transformed the nation. Written with clarity and verve, Radicals in America shows how radical leftists, while often marginal or ostracized, could assume a catalytic role as effective organizers in mass movements, fostering the imagination of alternative futures. Beginning with the Second World War, Radicals in America extends all the way down to the present, making it the first comprehensive history of radicalism to reach beyond the sixties. From the Communist Party and the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, its coverage extends to the Battle of Seattle and Occupy Wall Street. Each chapter begins with a particular life story, including a Harlem woman deported in the McCarthy era, a gay Japanese-American opponent of the Vietnam War, and a Native American environmentalist, vignettes that bring to life the personal within the political.Read more
- The only history of American radicalism beyond the Depression era that covers the full scope of protest movements from the 1970s to the present
- A vivid account based on activist personalities as well as varied tactics and strategies of protest
- Treats the most controversial aspects of protest and explains both the roots of radical commitment and the political faults and failures that stem from it
Reviews & endorsements
"The true history of radicalism over the past fifty years is often lost and never found, or distorted, smeared, or colored by old sectarian feuds. Brick and Phelps have connected the past to the present in ways that are accessible, understandable, and without grudge or judgment. An excellent work."
Tom Hayden, author and politicianSee more reviews
"This is a remarkable book, undoubtedly the most comprehensive and synthetic history of the post-World War II American left we have or are likely to get at any time in the near future."
Nelson Lichtenstein, author of State of the Union
"In a time of ever-expanding inequalities and hard-hearted policies, Radicals in America helps preserve the visionary yeast for a better America. This fascinating book gives us a thorough, succinct, and clear-headed history of America's ongoing radical hopes."
Timothy B. Tyson, author of Blood Done Sign My Name
"With vigorous narrative and analytic rigor, this inspiring and clear-eyed account of American radicalism brings women's activism and feminist politics from margin to center, beautifully exploring how different radical movements learned from and built on one another."
Johanna Brenner, author of Women and the Politics of Class
"Howard Brick and Christopher Phelps have produced a wealth of knowledge on the American left, dissecting its history in the last seven decades. There is no other work on the American left so sweeping and comprehensive in its coverage of the radical tradition deeply rooted in the fabric of America. Radicals in America is a must-read for anyone interested in American history and its diverse politics."
Aldon D. Morris, author of Origins of the Civil Rights Movement
"Something magical happened when Howard Brick and Christopher Phelps joined forces to craft this enthralling account of the US left from its upsurge after World War II to the near present. The two activist scholars, noted for distinguished books of their own, orchestrate stunning erudition, rigorous argumentation, lucid language, and a cohesive narrative to address a serious and taxing topic. Radicals in America is a learned volume, unsurpassed for a supreme command of the facts, yet is also a political breakthrough in the battle over memory of the postwar left. Exemplifying what Walter Benjamin meant when he referred to "the past charged with the time of now", this account does not merely tell the old story of the left in new clothes. Its pages embody the spirit of resistance come back from the dead to redress injustice."
Alan Wald, Against the Current
"The telling is nonjudgmental, the stories inspirational."
"The protagonist of [Brick and Phelps'] history is the radical … whose critical spirit and willingness to challenge the system - even at the risk of being scorned, fired, spat upon, beaten, jailed, or possibly killed - succeeds decade after decade in inspiring new mass movements implicitly aiming for another sort of society with greater freedom, equality, democracy, and solidarity … Highly readable and fast-paced."
Dan LaBotz, New Politics
"In Radicals in America: The U.S. Left since the Second World War Howard Brick and Christopher Phelps suggest that the story of American radicalism is best understood as a dialectic between "the willingness to hold fast for a minority view and the struggle to imagine and help fashion a new majority". Tilting too far towards either pole leads to impotence and failure, but at their best leftists have managed to hold both commitments in a dynamic tension. The book, which appears as part of a series aimed at undergraduates, could be profitably assigned to those with no prior knowledge of the American left. But its analytic bite and well-chosen illustrations recommend it to seasoned students."
Tim Barker, Dissent
"Excellent … A powerful history of how the Left has both succeeded and failed to bring its views into the center of American political life."
Andrew Hartman, Jacobin
"Radicals in America is a generous overview, well-written and rich with detail, offering readers a lively way to grasp a subject that has often seemed more discontinuous and elusive than understandable."
Paul Buhle, Tikkun
'The book is admirable for its engaging structure, its inclusive and evenhanded coverage, and the novel insights it offers on the Left’s potential to shape society.' Andrew Cornell, The Journal of American History
'One of the great strengths of this impressive book is the texture it brings to the world of the left, going well beyond the organizations that made headlines and the familiar characters of movement politics … What comes through [from Brick and Phelps] is their appreciation of the breadth of vision and the moral courage of the people they chronicle.' Kimberly Phillips-Fein, The Sixties
‘Brick and Phelps have written an indispensable synthesis of the history of the American left that is neither sentimental nor celebratory. Its most important achievement is the recovery of the voices of those often footnoted or simply ignored in the narratives of the mainstream labour and civil rights movements. The American left has indeed been more diverse, more complex, more voluble, and more persistent than is often portrayed, particularly in the post-1960s period.’ Michael Dennis, Labour/Le Travail
‘An ambitious, yet successful, systematization of the whole history of American radicalism from 1945 to the present, as well as a fruitful attempt to distill its gist. Radicals in America is the kind of herculean job that only two consummate experts in the field, such as historians Brick and Phelps, could have achieved.’ Luca Falciola, International Labor and Working-Class History
18th Aug 2015 by AlanWald
Something magical happened when Howard Brick and Christopher Phelps joined forces to craft this enthralling account of the U.S. Left from its upsurge after World War II to the near present. The two activist scholars, who have written distinguished books of their own, elegantly orchestrate stunning erudition, rigorous argumentation, lucid language, and a cohesive narrative to address a serious and taxing topic exactly as it should be done. Radicals in America is a radiantly learned volume, unsurpassed for a supreme command of the facts, but one that is also a political breakthrough in the battle over memory of the postwar Left. Exemplifying what Walter Benjamin meant when he referred to “the past charged with the time of now,” it’s a greatly overdue act of historical reconstruction that feels as fresh as first sunlight. This is a book that does not merely tell the old story of the Left in new clothes its pages embody the spirit of resistance come back from the dead to redress injustice. I will discuss this book in greater detail in my forthcoming review in the journal AGAINST THE CURRENT.
Review was not posted due to profanity×
- Date Published: July 2015
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9780521731331
- length: 361 pages
- dimensions: 229 x 152 x 20 mm
- weight: 0.53kg
- contains: 20 b/w illus.
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
Introduction: margin and mainstream
1. War and peace, 1939–1948
2. All over this land, 1949–1959
3. A new left, 1960–1964
4. The revolution will be live, 1965–1973
5. Anticipation, 1973–1980
6. Over the rainbow, 1980–1989
7. What democracy looks like, 1990 to the present
Conclusion: radicalism's future.
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