Crisis on the Left (Magill's Literary Annual 1979)
Power attracts attention. This is nowhere so evident as in our modern media, which mobilize and focus vast amounts of attention on those who are powerful, without regard to how temporary or illusory that power may be. Of course, it is understandable that journalists and the general public should be fascinated with the glamour and excitement surrounding those obviously capable of influencing events. No one expects the everyday observer to seek an understanding of more subtle social forces—even if these are, in the long run, more powerful in their effects. The detection of these quieter trends we leave to historians and social scientists. But scholars too are very often mesmerized by the appearance of power. The most telling argument of those who debunk history as mere storytelling is the tendency of many historians to focus on the most trivial details concerning national leaders while entirely neglecting the nation itself. There are dozens of books about Adolf Hitler for every study of the roots of Nazism. Many famous historians have based their careers on Presidential “portraits” and biographies; but who can name an authority on the American Congress? Probably more has been written about the personal peculiarities of Franklin Roosevelt’s advisers than about the complete transformation of American labor during the New Deal. This bias towards the charismatic or spectacular may not only disguise the past but also distort it.
Joseph McCarthy provides...
(The entire section is 1982 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1979)
Choice. XV, June, 1978, p. 606.
Chronicle of Higher Education. XVII, October 2, 1978, p. R13.
Commonweal. CV, August 4, 1978, p. 503.
Political Science Quarterly. XCIII, Fall, 1978, p. 532.
Progressive. XLII, August, 1978, p. 41.
(The entire section is 26 words.)