"The Crisis of American Liberalism"
The first lecture introduces the main themes of the series as a whole. It draws attention to the 1960s and 1970s as a key period of crisis for American liberalism, defined as a political ideology committed to the welfare state, minority rights, and the application of social expertise and state power to achieve political reform. It explains the importance of sociology to this story as a discipline at its apex in this period and one central to liberal and left-wing discourse at the time. This period saw the transformation and decline of American liberalism. Current historiography argues that liberalism waned because of external challenges from the left and right and because of its own inability to manage problems such as urban rebellions by African Americans and the Vietnam War. However, I will argue that liberalism’s crisis arose as much from its internal contradictions. Never a unitary ideology, the external crises of the period led liberalism to divide in two. The period saw the revival of left-liberalism, sparked by the growth of left social movements such as civil rights and feminism and reflected in George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign. But it also saw the emergence of neoconservativism, originally a strain of liberalism that stressed the need to defend the social order against threats from the left. Such divisions remain relevant today as the 2016 Democratic primary demonstrated, pitting Hillary Clinton, heir to the rightward drift of postwar liberalism, against Bernie Sanders, who represented a new revival of left-liberalism.
- Friday 6 April 2018, 13:30-15:30 - EHESS (room 12) - 105 bd Raspail 75006 Paris
"Left-Liberals and Neoconservatives: The New York Review of Books and Commentary"
This lecture concludes the series by exploring the intellectual controversy between the two most influential journals of opinion in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The newly-formed New York Review of Books reflected a left-wing turn among many liberal intellectuals and an opening to radical voices such as Noam Chomsky and Christopher Lasch. Commentary, on the other hand, became the principal mouthpiece of neoconservative liberals moving to the right. By exploring how writers for Commentary made the New York Review of Books a principal target of attack, this lecture will re-contextualize the history of neoconservativism. It will argue that neoconservatives were so much a directly reacting against the New Left so much as responding to a revived left-liberalism that neoconservatives conflated with radicalism.
- Monday 9 Aprill 2018, 14:00-16:00 - EHESS (room 12) - 105 bd Raspail 75006 Paris
"The Sociology and Politics of Student Radicalism: Liberals and the New Left"
Another issue on which liberals were split was the rise of New Left student protest on college campuses. Some liberals were repelled by New Left protest, seeing it as an inappropriate attack on universities as bastions of free speech. Others, however, were attracted by the moral vision of student protesters and allied themselves to it. This lecture will explore debates over the 1964 Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley between its sociological proponents such as Phillip Selznick and opponents such as Nathan Glazer (later a leading neoconservative). It will also trace the odyssey of famous sociologist David Riesman, who allied with the New Left before later vociferously breaking from it. Finally, it will explore the responses of liberal African American social scientists to the rise of Black Power on college campuses. It will conclude with reflections on the impact of the debates of the 1960s and 1970s on the current sociology and politics of student radicalism.
- Thursday 12 April 2018, 9:00-11:00 - EHESS (room 12) - 105 bd Raspail 75006 Paris
"The Sociology and Politics of Policing Black Communities : The Kerner Report"
One of the key issues that divided liberals then as today was the politics of policing, especially as related to the issue of racial equality. The injustices of policing were highlighted in the late 1960s by a series of urban rebellions by African Americans that were typically sparked by an incident of police brutality. The brutal suppression of such rebellions by police forces also became a political issue. Some liberals moved to the right on this issue, arguing the need to defend “law and order” and agreeing with conservatives on the need for more aggressive policing. For example, neoconservative James Q. Wilson became a leading advocate of “broken windows” policing (cracking down on the smallest infractions in poor African American areas). But many liberals deepened their commitment to non-punitive responses. The most famous of these was the 1968 Kerner Report, which called for a massive investment in African American urban areas. Though the Kerner Report was hesitant to criticize institutionalized racism in metropolitan police department, its staff researchers had in fact uncovered sharp evidence of such. The researchers were fired for calling out police racism, demonstrating key differences even among anti-punitive liberals. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also took a strong stand against police brutality. In recent years, historians have debated to what extent liberals were culpable for the rise of aggressive policing and mass incarceration. This lecture will argue that this question ignores key distinctions among liberals.
- Friday 13 April 2018, 10:00-12:00 - EHESS (LIER) - 10 rue Monsieur Le Prince 75006 Paris