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187 Arnold Kaufman, Radical Liberal: Liberalism Rediscovered Liberalism is no insipid political brew. It is potentially the most radical doctrine in the modern world. Because, rightly interpreted, it cannot respect any arrangements—however firmly entrenched —which deny to every human being his full allotment of personal freedom. . . . A liberal hates that in man which seeks to accumulate power, prestige, and privileges at the expense of the rightful power, prestige, and privileges of others. —Arnold Kaufman, review of The New Class, by Milovan Djlias, 1958 Radicalism without a coherent moral orientation is blind energy. The leftist must work out a social philosophy which combines social utility and justice. —Arnold Kaufman, “A Philosophy for the American Left,” 1963 Unlike the other intellectuals studied here, Arnold Kaufman is not always recognized as an intellectual who had significant influence on the New Left. Mention his name, and most historians of the New Left scratch their heads. And yet, more than others, Arnold Kaufman developed the idea of “participatory democracy” to its fullest extent, drawing the concept out from traditions within modern political theory. He inspired Tom Hayden, Robert Haber, and Carl Ogelsby of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). At SDS’s now-famous Port Huron conference, Kaufman gave a speech that found much of its way into the Port Huron Statement, perhaps the most sophisticated (if not the most significant) document in New Left history. Richard Flacks described the scene at one SDS conference: “Arnold spoke and people sat at his feet.” Clearly, Kaufman had a captive audience among young New Leftists, and his own intellectual and political sympathies found a home here.1 1. Flacks quoted in James Miller, “Democracy Is in the Streets,” 111. See also the official invitation to Arnold Kaufman to speak at an SDS convention from June 11–15, 1962. Robert Haber and Sandra Hayden asked him to speak on “the intellectual foundations of the left”: letter dated May 12, 1962, Arnold Kaufman Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, box 4, file on SDS. 188 Intellectuals in Action During the 1960s, Kaufman became best known as an originator and spokesperson for the anti–Vietnam War teach-in, an event that defined the earlier and more intellectually oriented New Left. The teach-in, as we will see, created an audience—or democratic public—for academic and intellectual critics of the Vietnam War. By throwing his energy into organizing teach-ins (both local and national), Kaufman “solved,” so to speak, the dilemma of the New Left intellectual. That is, he balanced a commitment to the politics of truth and deliberation with a respect for the politics of change and engagement. Jack Rothman, Kaufman’s colleague at the University of Michigan, described him as an intellectual “in equal parts the academictheorist and the politician-activist. The philosopher and the public man collided within him and demanded resolution.” In the simplest terms, this was seen in the fact that Kaufman could never divorce his ideas from his activism . As he described his one and only book, The Radical Liberal (and the same could be said for his countless articles), “The inclination to write this book grew out of my participation in the teach-in movement and in the civil rights struggle.” For Kaufman, ideas and a firm commitment to the politics of truth could never be divorced from activism and the politics of commitment.2 At the same time, Kaufman was a steadfast liberal. In his thinking and activism, we can see a dialogue between liberalism and radicalism—a dialogue important for the main themes of this book. The best radical critics at the time recognized the importance of Kaufman’s insistence that radicalism and liberalism were deeply intertwined. Even a staunch critic of Kaufman’s liberalism, Christopher Lasch, argued that the “emergence of dissident liberalism . . . is an important and heartening development.” I will argue that Kaufman’s intellectual and activist explorations show how the New Left, at its best, synthesized radicalism and liberalism, rather than rejecting liberalism altogether. As I have already shown, the relation between liberalism and radicalism in the work of most intellectuals studied here was, at the least, more complicated than typically thought. When pressed, these intellectuals often wound up defending liberalism, and for Kaufman such a defense came relatively naturally. By giving Kaufman his rightful standing in intellectual 2. Jack Rothman, “The Radical Liberal Strategy in Action: Arnold Kaufman and the First Teach-In,” Social Theory and Practice 2 (1972): 42; Arnold Kaufman, The Radical Liberal...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780271052625
Related ISBN
9780271022062
MARC Record
OCLC
73726750
Pages
320
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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