Synopses & Reviews
The definitive history of American postwar liberalism, told through the lens of those who brought it to life.
Liberalism stands proudly at the center of American politics and culture. Driven by passion for social justice, tempered by respect for the difficulty of change, liberals have struggled to end economic inequality, racial discrimination, and political repression. Liberals have fueled their cause with the promise of American life and visions of national greatness, seeking to transform the White House; the halls of Congress, the courts, the worlds of entertainment, law, media, and the course of public opinion. Bestselling author, journalist, and historian Eric Alterman, together with historian Kevin Mattson, traces the history of liberal ideals through the lives and struggles of fascinating personalities. The Cause tells the remarkable story of politicians, intellectuals, visionaries, activists, and public personalities battling for the heart and soul of the nation.
The first full-scale treatment of postwar liberalism, The Cause offers an epic saga driven by stories of grand aspirations, principled ambitions, tragic flaws, and the ironies of history of the people who fought for America to live up to the highest ideals of its history.
"In this ambitious work, journalist Alterman (Kabuki Democracy) and historian Mattson (When America Was Great) present an encyclopedic history of liberalism, a movement devoted to equality, justice, and freedom, and a powerful engine of change in the 20th century. With a huge cast ranging from political to cultural figures as diverse as Reinhold Niebuhr, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Lyndon Johnson, Gloria Steinem, Richard Rorty, Bruce Springsteen, and many, many more, the authors tell the tortured story of the liberal fight for social justice. Against the backdrop of the lives and works of these men and women, they undertake an exhaustive exposition of legislation, election campaigns, foreign policy decisions, theoretical books and journals, and other cultural artifacts. The liberal devotion to rationality leads to the problem of 'how to inspire passion for a philosophy that itself distrust passion.' Alterman and Mattson suggest that, in our current era, liberalism has 'pledged itself to rationality in a political culture in which anti-intellectualism runs rampant,' and in which the enemies of liberalism are effectively mobilizing populist fear and ignorance. Though the book loses narrative focus due to the slew of mini-biographies spliced throughout, it remains an illuminating history of postwar politics, international relations, culture, and philosophy all in one scrupulously researched volume. Agent: Tina Bennett, Janklow & Nesbit. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A major history of American liberalism and the key personalities behind the movement
Why is it that nearly every liberal initiative since the end of the New Deal—whether busing, urban development, affirmative action, welfare, gun control, or Roe v. Wade
—has fallen victim to its grand aspirations, often exacerbating the very problem it seeks to solve? In this groundbreaking work, the first full treatment of modern liberalism in the United States, bestselling journalist and historian Eric Alterman together with Kevin Mattson present a comprehensive history of this proud, yet frequently maligned tradition. In The Cause,
we meet the politicians, preachers, intellectuals, artists, and activists—from Eleanor Roosevelt to Barack Obama, Adlai Stevenson to Hubert Humphrey, and Billie Holiday to Bruce Springsteen—who have battled for the heart and soul of the nation.
About the Author
Eric Alterman is Distinguished Professor of English and Journalism at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. A columnist for The Nation, The Forward, and The Daily Best, he is senior fellow of the Center for American Progress, the Nation Institute, and the World Policy Institute. The author of eight previous books, including the national bestseller What Liberal Media?, Alterman is the winner of the George Orwell Award, the Jack London Literary Prize, and the Mirror Award for media criticism. A graduate of Cornell, Yale, and Stanford universities, he lives with his family in Manhattan.