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The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  47 ratings  ·  7 reviews
With a new introduction by the author The Vital Center is an eloquent and incisive defense of liberal democracy against its rivals to the left and to the right, communism and fascism. It shows how the failures of free society had led to the mass escape from freedom and sharpened the appeal of totalitarian solutions. It calls for a radical reconstruction of the democratic f ...more
Paperback, 274 pages
Published January 1st 1997 by Transaction Publishers (first published March 21st 1988)
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Joseph Stieb
This is a wise and learned book from a then quite young Arthur Schlesinger. Overall, it is a defense of liberalism and a call for a more robust defense of the vital center, or the core beliefs of liberalism and the need to balance liberalism's emphasis on the individual with the individual's need for community support and collective meaning.

A few ideas stood out to me in this book. First, he gives a fascinating account of the roots of the totalitarian challenge to liberalism in the first half of
Jul 09, 2009 Lee added it
This is a fascinating Cold War document, a perfect embodiment of what Schlesinger himself calls the "Non-Communist Left thesis." I read it with less interest in thinking about whether its argument is applicable today -- or whether it was even valid in its own time -- than as a representative specimen of the emerging liberal consensus after the Second World War. Read this book after you've read Frances Stonor Saunders's "The Cultural Cold War" to understand what was at stake for Cold War liberals ...more
Rich Cranford
Deftly presented mandate for the liberal left with examinations of fascism, Communism, and American Progressive and conservative ideologies as assessed in the aftermath of WWII. Enough historical explanation woven into the argument to avoid categorization of a liberal left manifesto. most valuable aspect may be the obvious passion and emotion that permeates this work - provides a great window into how the threat of Communism was perceived and where the ideological battle lines fell at the dawn o ...more
What is consistently surprising is how much more lucid Schlesinger's thinking is for the time than most of his non-Communist Left colleagues--which isn't saying a whole heck of a lot, but I was fascinated by the relative lack of outright cant (or at least less hysterical cant) and the (at times) genuine creativity of Schlesinger's arguments.
Matt Simmons
Schlesinger's work is remarkably relevant to the challenge of building a moderate and workable government today. This book and Camus' The Rebel both talk about the dangers of permanent revolution in politics and the pull toward extremism.
Allen George
Though written over sixty years ago, Schlesinger's observations on polarizing politics remain timely and current
Schlesinger is a great apologist for liberal thought. However, the incessant reference to the Cold War lends it the tone of loyalty oath sometimes. That got old for me.
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Arthur Meier Schlesinger Jr., born Arthur Bancroft Schlesinger, was a Pulitzer Prize recipient and American historian and social critic whose work explored the liberalism of American political leaders including Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy. He served as special assistant and "court historian" to President Kennedy from 1961 to 1963. He wrote a detailed account of th ...more
More about Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr....
Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House Robert Kennedy and His Times The Age of Jackson The Crisis of the Old Order 1919-33 (The Age of Roosevelt, Vol 1) Journals, 1952-2000

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