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Commentary In American Life

Murray Friedman

Publication Year: 2005

Founded by the American Jewish Committee in 1945 as a monthly journal of "significant thought and opinion, Jewish affairs and contemporary issues," Commentary magazine has through the years had a far-reaching impact on American politics and culture. Commentary in American Life traces this influence over time, especially in creating the neoconservative movement. The authors of each chapter also consider the ways the magazine shaped and reflected major cultural and literary trends in the United States. The end result offers a full accounting of one of the most important journals of American political thought, providing insight into the development of American collective politics and culture over the last six decades.

Published by: Temple University Press

Contents

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pp. v-

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Introduction: Commentary: The First Sixty Years

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pp. 1-8

It was Irving Kristol, Ruth Wisse reminds us, who said that Commentary was one of the most important magazines in Jewish history. This may be an exaggeration, but not by much. Literary critic Richard Pells writes more soberly, “While other magazines...

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1. “America Is Home”: Commentary Magazine and the Refocusing of the Community of Memory, 1945—1960

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pp. 9-37

The year 1945 marked a period of disruption for American Jewry, and for New York’s community of Jewish intellectuals in particular. The end of World War II, with the full revelations of the Nazi genocide in Europe, the possibility of a Jewish state in Palestine, and the shift of focus from Europe toward America, had a disorientating effect on American Jews. As they emerged from...

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2. Commentary: The Early Years

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pp. 38-51

I served on the staff of Commentary magazine from its beginning in 1945 until I left in 1953. I also worked on its predecessor magazine, the Commentary Jewish Record (CJR), for a year or so. I would first like to say a few words about this predecessor journal, as it shaped what was to become the new Commentary and the circle that was...

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3. The Jewishness of Commentary

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pp. 52-73

The Center for the Documentation of the Jewish Press in Tel Aviv has catalogued over 15,000 Jewish publications, and estimates that there have been as many as 25,000 in various languages.1 Some of these publications continued for over a century, and many had a profound effect on Jewish life and culture, yet Irving Kristol was probably...

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4. Commentary and the City: Getting It Right, Getting It Wrong

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pp. 74-98

The 1990s should have been banner years for Commentary and its critique of urban liberalism. For a quarter-century, Commentary and its young nephew The Public Interest had engaged in a sustained critique of what might be described as the Great Urban Leap Forward of the 1960s. As in China, the attempt to rapidly engineer a vast social transformation had ended in disaster, with the consequent need to cover over the failure with re-education. In the early 1960s...

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5. What They Talked About When They Talked About Literature: Commentary in Its First Three Decades

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pp. 99-126

When, in late 1945, the American Jewish Committee entrusted Elliot E. Cohen with the editorship of a new magazine, it charged him “to enlighten and clarify public opinion on problems of Jewish concern, to fight bigotry and protect human rights, and to promote Jewish cultural interest and creative achievement in America.”1 To do all that...

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6. Commentary and the Common Culture

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pp. 127-133

Nearly two decades after I started writing for Commentary, I can still remember how excited I was to see my name on the cover of that notoriously hard-to-crack magazine for the first time. I remember no less vividly what it felt like to read Commentary, long before it occurred to me that I might possibly write for it someday. Though...

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7. Norman Podhoretz and the Cold War

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pp. 134-150

In my history of American anticommunism, I assigned Norman Podhoretz a leading part in the final scenes of the drama of the Cold War—I love the notion of being able to assign historical roles, like Peter Quince parceling out the parts in the “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” (“Strobe Talbott, you will present the Berlin Wall—don’t let anyone tear it down. President Carter,...

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8. Joining the Ranks: Commentary and American Conservatism

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pp. 151-173

Probably no American journal of opinion has been more praised and pilloried in the last thirty years than Commentary has, under the editorship of Norman Podhoretz and Neal Kozodoy, and no political tendency or ideology has been more analyzed and remarked on than the phenomenon called neoconservatism, with which Commentary has been identified since the early 1970s. On the subject of neoconservatism, at least four...

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9. Commentary's Children: Neoconservatism in the Twenty-First Century

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pp. 174-190

Commentary is synonymous with neoconservatism. Although neoconservatism was born in 1965, in the pages of Irving Kristol’s journal the Public Interest, it was not until editor Norman Podhoretz used Commentary in June 1970 to state his opposition to the New Left that the movement began to attract attention. Indeed, Commentary’s long-established...

Notes

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pp. 191-218

About the Contributors

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pp. 219-220

Index

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pp. 221-226


E-ISBN-13: 9781592131112
Print-ISBN-13: 9781592131068

Publication Year: 2005