The Nation, 30 March 2009

nation-30-march-2009A review of The Politics of Truth: Selected Writings of C. Wright Mills mentions  Mills’ concept of “crackpot realism,” introduced in his Causes of World War Three to explain how a group of highly intelligent people could come to believe that each step in a course of action certain to lead to their destruction was the safest, most prudent one possible.  Mills feared that “citizenship was obsolete”; “Modern society made freedom in the liberal sense of autonomous and reflective citizenship increasingly impossible.” 

The new Library of America volume The Lincoln Anthology: Great Writers on his Life and Legacy from 1860 to  Now draws  a review titled “Sallow, Queer, and Sagacious.”  Dissenters from the celebration of Abraham Lincoln as America’s great secular saint are well represented in the volume.  Among them are Edmund Wilson, whose portrait of the sixteenth president in 1962’s Patriotic Gore has reminded more than one critic of Stalin, and Lerone Bennett Jr, who since the 1960s has been arguing that Lincoln was no friend to black America.

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6 Comments

  1. cymast

     /  March 20, 2009

    ” . . how a group of highly intelligent people could come to believe that each step in a course of action certain to lead to their destruction was the safest, most prudent one possible.”

    In a college politics class I found myself arguing FOR the building and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. I don’t remember the details. I was aware of the incredulous “reasoning” I was presenting, and aware that I ultimately disagreed with it, but I somehow found myself on a railroad that looked as if it could run right over the students arguing against nuclear weapons. So I kept on, and they very quickly ran out of arguments. Then the bell rang. I was profoundly confused and somewhat frightened from the debate, and I still think about it now and then.

  2. cymast

     /  March 20, 2009

    If I see “perfect” immediately followed by “storm” one more time . . ARGH

  3. believer1

     /  March 21, 2009

    I love the concept cracpot realists. i hope a lot of fun putting it in a paper i wrote this week for a grad class.

  4. cymast

     /  March 21, 2009

    How fitting!

  5. acilius

     /  March 22, 2009

    I agree about “perfect storm.” Every time I look at that cover the cliche disappoints me.

  6. cymast

     /  March 22, 2009

    AARRGH

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