Catalogue


Randolph Bourne and the politics of cultural radicalism /
Leslie J. Vaughan.
imprint
Lawrence, Kan. : University Press of Kansas, 1997.
description
xii, 266 p.
ISBN
0700608214 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Lawrence, Kan. : University Press of Kansas, 1997.
isbn
0700608214 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
1144749
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1997-10:
Vaughan provides the usual biographical details of Bourne's life: his ungainly appearance; enrollment at Columbia University and in New York's radical and bohemian clubs; rebellion against Victorian conformity and Puritan rigidity; and his arraignment of Woodrow Wilson, John Dewey, and the Progressive intellectuals of the New Republic, all of whom endorsed military involvement in WW I. But Vaughan goes well beyond these well-known facts in challenging previous analyses of Bourne. In an effort to understand the ideas and experiences of his generation--its purity, innocence, and Dionysian exuberance--she examines Bourne's life from within his work. She turns to his autobiographies and mordant essays and uncovers among other elements Bourne's own reliance on Nietzsche--who inspired his political and cultural criticism--his rejection of both the new humanists and new critics, and the moral bankruptcy of pragmatism and Progressivism. Vaughan sees Bourne and his generation from a fresh perspective, and renders an important service to all students of early-20th-century US history. M. Cantor; University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, October 1997
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Summaries
Unpaid Annotation
Bourne was an essayist and critic most remembered today for his opposition to U.S. military involvement in Europe and his assertion that "war is the health of the state". Bourne is also recognized as one of the founders of American cultural radicalism, revered in turn by Marxists, antifascists, and the New Left. Through his writings, he debated issues that were cultural as well as political from a position he described as "below the battle", rejecting the either/or political options of his day in favor of a viewpoint that argued outside the terms set by the establishment. In her new study of Bourne's political thought, Leslie Vaughan maintains that this position was not, as others have contended, a retreat from politics but rather a different form of political engagement, freed from the suppositions that impede genuine debate and democratic change. In reexamining Bourne's writings, Vaughan has located the roots of twentieth-century radical thought while repositioning Bourne at the center of debates about the nature and limits of American liberalism.
Main Description
In the "little rebellion" that swept New Yorks Greenwich Village before World War I, few figures stood out more than Randolph Bourne. Hunchbacked and caped-the "little sparrowlike man" of Dos Passos U.S.A.-Bourne was an essayist and critic most remembered today for his opposition to U.S. military involvement in Europe and his assertion that "war is the health of the state." A frequent contributor to The New Republic, he died in 1918 at the age of 32, arguing that a "military-industrial" complex would continue to shape the policies of the modern liberal state. Bourne is also recognized as one of the founders of American cultural radicalism, revered in turn by Marxists, anti-fascists, and the New Left. Through his writings, he debated issues that were cultural as well as political from a position he described as "below the battle," rejecting the either/or political options of his day in favor of a viewpoint that argued outside the terms set by the establishment. In her new study of Bournes political thought, Leslie Vaughan maintains that this position was not, as others have contended, a retreat from politics but rather a different form of political engagement, freed from the suppositions that impede genuine debate and democratic change. Her analysis challenges previous readings of Bournes politics, showing that he offered non-statist, neighborhood-based politics in Americas modern cities as a practical alternative to involvement in the national state and its militarism. By demonstrating Bournes emphasis on politics as local, multi-ethnic, and intergenerational, Vaughan shows that his thought offered a new political discourse and set of cultural possibilities for American society in an era he was the first to label as "post-modern." Returning to the influence of Nietzsche on his thought, she also explores the role Bourne played in the creation of his own myth. Eighty years later, Bourne can be seen to stand at the cusp of the modern and the post-modern worlds, as he speaks to todays multiculturalist movement. In reexamining Bournes writings, Vaughan has located the roots of twenthieth-century radical thought while repositioning Bourne at the center of debates about the nature and limits of American liberalism.

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