I hope to have my own review of James Pierson’s Camelot and the Cultural Revoltion online in the next week or so. In the meantime, Fred Siegel has a great write-up of the book’s central thesis in Opinion Journal, and concludes:
Mr. Piereson’s own argument is persuasive and well-presented, but liberalism was never as reasonable as he assumes. The irrationalism that exploded later in the 1960s had been a component of left-wing ideology well before. Herbert Croly, the liberal founder of the New Republic magazine, was drawn to mysticism. In the 1950s ex-Marxists fell over themselves in praise of Wilhelm Reich and “orgone box,” hoping that sexual therapy might replace Marxist theory as the toga of the enlightened. And in the very early 1960s a veritable cult of Castro, informed by Franz Fanon’s writings on the cleansing virtues of violence, emerged among intellectuals searching for an alternative to middle-class conventions.
It’s not reason that is at the heart of modern-day liberalism but rather the claim to superior virtue and, even more important, to a special knowledge unavailable to the unwashed or unenlightened. Depending on the temper of the time, such virtue and knowledge can derive disproportionately from scientism or mysticism–or it can mix large dollops of both.
In the latest issue of City Journal, Myron Magnet extends those concepts from the mid-1960s to the present, with an emphasis on today’s liberals’ reaction to the Duke non-rape case, which Newsweek’s Evan Thomas recently unwittingly crystalized down to a single sentence: “The narrative was right, but the facts were wrong”.
Magnet explains how such a mindset can occur amongst seemingly sophisticated elites:
Part of what a university should teach is the critical reasoning power to analyze situations like these, with claims and counterclaims, and determine what actually happened. But the last few decades