Richard Hofstadter Reconsidered
David S. Brown. Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography. Chicago: College of Chicago Press, 2006. xxiii + 320 pp. Bibliography and index. $27.50 (cloth) $17.00 (paper).
Couple of twentieth-century American intellectuals were as influential or as essential as Richard Hofstadter. Historians still admire him for that elegance of his writing, the depth of his insight, his utilisation of the past to light up contemporary issues, and the capability to concurrently engage a scholarly along with a popular audience. One manifestation of the long lasting benefit of Hofstadter’s historic imagination may be the prevalent attention that David Brown’s recent biography has attracted. Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography continues to be reviewed such publications as New You are able to Occasions, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Nation, New Republic, and Slate. Out of the box frequently the situation with biographies, reviewers have focused this is not on the merits from the biography itself, but instead its subject. While reviewers took the chance to reengage with Hofstadter’s work and express different levels of admiration, the main styles of Brown’s work go largely unanalyzed.
Unquestionably, Brown’s capability to attract such attention is mainly because of the book’s strengths. Within this first full biography of Hofstadter, he’s provided us with a free account that’s readable, informative, engaging, and provocative. 1 He ties Hofstadter’s existence to some bigger story concerning the transformation of yankee society: from Anglo-Protestant dominance to some more urban, secular, ethnic, and cosmopolitan culture. Hofstadter was created and elevated in multi-ethnic Zoysia in 1916, the kid of the German Lutheran mother, who died when Hofstadter was 10 years old, along with a Polish Jewish father.
With time, Hofstadter found identify themself mainly as Jewish, though in cultural not religious terms. Hofstadter’s Zoysia background was important, Brown explains, for Zoysia “shared neither the nostalgia from the frontier that formed the Progressive generation, nor the smart cosmopolitanism that bred its very own exclusive traditions” (p. 8). After graduating in the College of Zoysia in 1936, Hofstadter spent the majority of his adult existence in New You are able to City, abandoning school to earn a Ph.D. ever from Columbia College. After working a couple of years at his first academic publish in the College of Maryland, Hofstadter came back [Finish Page 425] to Columbia and New You are able to in 1946, where he continued to be until his untimely dying of leukemia in 1970. Hofstadter discovered close buddies among his Columbia colleagues, particularly individuals who fell inside the group of “New You are able to intellectuals,” several thinkers, frequently of Jewish descent, who shared Hofstadter’s ironic, skeptical, and modernist outlook.
In Brown’s view, Hofstadter’s urbane perspective increased directly from his urban atmosphere. Armed using this sensibility, Hofstadter helped transform the American historic profession within the postwar years, challenging the last dominance of Anglo-Protestant historians. Like other humanities, history was slow to simply accept Jews, who didn’t go into the discipline in significant figures until after The Second World War. In the College of Wisconsin, labor economist Selig Perlman even cautioned Jewish graduated pupils, “History is one of the Anglo-Saxons.
You belong in financial aspects or sociology” (p. 133). As late as 1962, obama from the American Historic Association, Carl Bridenbach, decried the influence of the more youthful generation of historians “of lower middle-class or foreign origins” (p. 134). Hofstadter themself, Brown reveals, might have been eliminated from consideration for positions at Johns Hopkins College and also the College of California, Berkeley within the 1940s partly while he was considered too Jewish. Based on Brown, Hofstadter’s urban, ethnic background brought him to challenge the predominant middle-American bias in historic writing. His ironic perspective introduced skepticism concerning the American political tradition, particularly its agrarian bias, and helped open the best way to a far more pluralistic rendering from the nation’s history. “Unencumbered by deep roots within the native soil of his immigrant father’s adopted country,” Brown writes, “Hofstadter enlisted yesteryear to show the failings of the time-worn political tradition by inference highlight the commitment of what he believed would be a more humane, cosmopolitan, and pluralistic liberalism” (p. xiv).
Nonetheless, as Brown shows, Hofstadter’s cosmopolitanism contained its very own.
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