Seeds of the sixties /

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Main Author: Jamison, Andrew.
Other Authors: Eyerman, Ron.
Format: Book
Language:English
Published:Berkeley : University of California Press, c1994.
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Review by Choice Review

Tracing the roots of 1960s radicalism through brief biographical sketches of 15 individuals whose work in the previous decade influenced the movements of the 1960s, this book suggests continuities in the two decades. Individual chapters cover figures in five areas: mass culture critics, ecology intellectuals, grass roots politics, literary and cultural critics, and science and social science. Highly selective and sometimes idiosyncratic, the authors' choice of representative individuals ranges from standard figures such as C. Wright Mills, Martin Luther King Jr., and Allen Ginsberg to Saul Alinsky, Dorothy Day, Leo Szilard, and Fairfield Osborn. This book will be a useful supplement to more standard and comprehensive histories of cultural and intellectual dissent in the 1950s, such as Richard C. Pells's The Liberal Mind in a Conservative Age (CH, Jun'85). The intended readership is somewhat unclear. The book is theoretically sophisticated, but ten-page summaries of complex individuals, the absence of footnotes, and a thin secondary reference list that misses many important works do not indicate much depth. Best suited for advanced undergraduates. K. Blaser; Wayne State College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this deft and accessible slice of intellectual history, the authors, American scholars at Lund University in Sweden, profile 15 people who helped transform public discourse in the 1950s, carving out ``breathing space'' for the ferment to follow. Their choices, in five categories, are solidly representative: critics of mass society C. Wright Mills and Erich Fromm; early environmentalists Lewis Mumford and Rachel Carson; intellectual innovators Herbert Marcuse and Margaret Mead; cultural pioneers Allen Ginsberg and James Baldwin; political agitators Saul Alinsky and Martin Luther King. The authors combine biography with analysis for each of their profiles, and conclude thoughtfully by suggesting the different ways in which the ideas and actions of their subjects influenced the days--and the decade--ahead. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Useful attempt to identify the writers and activists of the 1940's and 50's who most influenced progressive thought in the 60's. Seeds resurrects the contributions of 15 people, many now forgotten, whose work underlay the radical activism of the 60's (see Farber above). The 60's can't be explained without a look at the influence of such partisan figures, the authors (Lund University, Sweden; Social Movements, 1991, etc.) insist. They're right: Seeds is a useful corrective to the notion that 60's activism arose in a vacuum (the vacuum the 40's and 50's are often assumed to have been). The authors' choice of figures is salutary. They include ``insider-activist'' ecologist Fairfield Osborne, who reinvented the zoo as a site of environmental education; Lewis Mumford, whose writings on literature, technology, and the urban environment opened crucial lines of theoretical inquiry; Leo Szilard, who conceived the atom bomb and then fought against those who controlled it; and Mary McCarthy, whose frank and satirical writing about women's lives developed the kind of consciousness that led to the women's liberation movement. The book also includes a number of figures too-long neglected--cultural theorist C. Wright Mills, Marxist psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, activist ecologist Rachel Carson, community organizer Saul Alinsky, Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day, and philosopher Herbert Marcuse. Inevitably, these activists had their own antecedents. Discussion of such forerunners (Dewey and Emerson among them) helps underscore the existence of a long progressive tradition in American thought. The book's chief drawback lies in its formal structure--introductory material tends to dryness; chapters are closed by repetitive summations; material on the figures themselves tends to get squeezed out (the section on Martin Luther King, for example, is woefully short). The authors might have done better to weave their own observations into writing about the figures, making this collective biography more truly collective. Still, Seeds of the Sixties serves a crucial purpose; hopefully it will lead readers to further investigate the work of the important and interesting figures it examines.

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