About

Columbia University Press Pinterest

Twitter

Facebook

CUP Web site

RSS Feed

New Books

Author Interviews

Author Events

Keep track of new CUP book releases:
e-newsletters

For media inquiries, please contact our
publicity department

CUP Authors Blogs and Sites

American Society of Magazine Editors

Leonard Cassuto

Mike Chasar / Poetry and Popular Culture

Erica Chenoweth / "Rational Insurgent"

Juan Cole

Jenny Davidson / "Light Reading"

Faisal Devji

William Duggan

James Fleming / Atmosphere: Air, Weather, and Climate History Blog

David Harvey

Paul Harvey / "Religion in American History"

Bruce Hoffman

Alexander Huang

David K. Hurst / The New Ecology of Leadership

Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh

Geoffrey Kabat / "Hyping Health Risks"

Grzegorz W. Kolodko / "Truth, Errors, and Lies"

Jerelle Kraus

Julia Kristeva

Michael LaSala / Gay and Lesbian Well-Being (Psychology Today)

David Leibow / The College Shrink

Marc Lynch / "Abu Aardvark"

S. J. Marshall

Michael Mauboussin

Noelle McAfee

The Measure of America

Philip Napoli / Audience Evolution

Paul Offit

Frederick Douglass Opie / Food as a Lens

Jeffrey Perry

Mari Ruti / The Juicy Bits

Marian Ronan

Michael Sledge

Jacqueline Stevens / States without Nations

Ted Striphas / The Late Age of Print

Charles Strozier / 9/11 after Ten Years

Hervé This

Alan Wallace

James Igoe Walsh / Back Channels

Xiaoming Wang

Santiago Zabala

Press Blogs

AAUP

University of Akron

University of Alberta

American Management Association

Baylor University

Beacon Broadside

University of California

Cambridge University Press

University of Chicago

Cork University

Duke University

University of Florida

Fordham University Press

Georgetown University

University of Georgia

Harvard University

Harvard Educational Publishing Group

University of Hawaii

Hyperbole Books

University of Illinois

Island Press

Indiana University

Johns Hopkins University

University of Kentucky

Louisiana State University

McGill-Queens University Press

Mercer University

University of Michigan

University of Minnesota

Minnesota Historical Society

University of Mississippi

University of Missouri

MIT

University of Nebraska

University Press of New England

University of North Carolina

University Press of North Georgia

NYU / From the Square

University of Oklahoma

Oregon State University

University of Ottawa

Oxford University

Penn State University

University of Pennsylvania

Princeton University

Stanford University

University of Sydney

University of Syracuse

Temple University

University of Texas

Texas A&M University

University of Toronto

University of Virginia

Wilfrid Laurier University

Yale University

August 2nd, 2012 at 10:42 am

C. Wright Mills and the New York Intllectuals

“As his peers drifted rightward, Mills lurched to the Left, at a time when such a move was decidedly unfashionable.”—Stanley Aronowitz

Stanley Aronowitz, Taking It BigIn Taking it Big: C. Wright Mills and the Making of Political Intellectuals, Stanley Aronowitz describes the uneasy intellectual and political relationship Mills had with the New York Intellectuals (Dwight MacDonald, Sidney Hook, Irving Kristol, Lionel Trilling, etc.).

Mills arrived in New York City in 1945 and while he shared many of the leftist sympathies of the New York Intellectuals, he was not caught up in the same debates regarding Marxism or the battles between Stalinists and Trotskyists. Likewise, while he was an anti-Communist, Mills did not come to accept American mainstream liberalism that many New York Intellectuals would during the Cold War. Indeed many New York Intellectuals moved further and further to the right in the coming years.

In the following excerpt from the chapter Mills and the New York Intellectuals, Aronowitz describes this relationship in greater detail:

What accounts for Mills’s refusal to join his ideological peers in participating in the American celebration, even though he was a devout anticommunist for most of his career? To begin with, he was neither raised in New York nor attended City College, the 1930s hotbed of student, independent radicalism. He did not imbibe the endless political talk that filled the alcoves of the college’s cafeteria where the leftist factions met daily, mostly reinforcing their respective received wisdom. He was raised and schooled in Texas and obtained his Ph.D. at the leading campus of Midwestern populism, Wisconsin. Despite his sympathies with Trotskyism, he kept his distance from left-wing sects, thus avoiding the bruising conflicts suffered by beleaguered activists in these formations. And he was not the son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants nor of working-class origin. The intense desire for assimilation shared by a large portion of those within these groups did not shape his view of America and its institutions. In other words, he could afford to remain an outsider; he was not eager to shed estrangement from his country and its culture. That Norman Mailer shared these sentiments may be ascribed to his adversarial character as much as to his wartime experiences and distance from the prevailing Left-sectarian milieu. Like Mills, he was no joiner.

For the New York intellectuals who fit the typical New York radical profile, politics meant, in the first place, attention to the Russian question, which took the form of an almost Talmudic devotion to the study of the fate of the Bolshevik revolution. For their generation of radicals, the revolution and its outcome had become a measure of the entire history of socialism and Marxism. Mills was acutely aware of the betrayals that his friends found in the rise of Stalinism. However, he believed that a specifically American radicalism that was relatively independent of Marxism could not be created on the foundation of a critique of the outcome of the Russian revolution. Such a radicalism had to be rooted in its own society and culture. And he found the dominant economic and political environment of the United States abhorrent, unworthy of the kind of critical approbation that marked the slide of the bulk of New York intellectuals from radicalism to the political center and, in more than a few instances, to the Right. In short, he had no emotional or intellectual stakes in a politics based on a repudiation of the Soviet regime. It left him free to remain uncompromisingly anticapitalist and, as he was later to remark, more and more devoutly socialist, rather than slipping into the comfortable clothes of a modern New Deal–inflected liberal. As his peers drifted rightward, Mills lurched to the Left, at a time when such a move was decidedly unfashionable.

Post a comment