In his latest publication, William L. O'Neill presents a concise critical history of the New Left, the thinking, people, and events that helped shape the 1960s in America, and its principal heir, the Academic Left. The first two chapters of this lively, interpretive narrative relate the history of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), an organization that despite such well-publicized actions as the first mass protest in Washington against the Vietnam War and the student strike that shut down Columbia University, was unable to expand beyond its student base or survive a factional split. Next covered is the theatrical Left, notably those at the head of the Yippie movement who skillfully manipulated the mainstream media to garner enormous publicity for their stunts and staged events but whose movement, like the SDS, failed to survive the decade.
Chapter Four follows the major figures in the story-Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden, the Weathermen, Timothy Leary and others, and sifts through various theories to conclude why and how the New Left burned out so quickly. Finally, Chapter Five addresses the legacy of the New Left in the rise of the Academic Left, which, while riddled with ironies, remains entrenched in academe today.
William L. O Neil is a professor of history at Rutgers. The State University of New Brunswick, New Jersey. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of numerous books, including A Democracy at War: America s Fight at Home and Abroad in World War II, American High: The Years of Confidence, 1945-1960, and Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960 s. As a professor at the University of Wisconsin from 1966 to 1971 he had many contacts with New Leftists, had his classroom taken over by them on one occasion, was threatened by a graduate student during a faculty meeting, and witnessed a riot during which students and police exchanged tear gas canisters with each other. Most contacts, however, were far more civil, involving the exchange of ideas rather than chemical agents.
Foreword V Preface IX Chapter One: The Rise of SDS 1 Birth of the New Left 3 SDS Takes the Stage 7 Chapter Two: SDS: Decline and Fall 28 Chapter Three: Hippies and Yippies 45 The Counterculture 45 The Yippies 46 HUAC and The Yippies 54 The End of the Yippies 57 Chapter Four: Fadeout 60 Why the New Left Failed 66 Chapter Five: The Academic Left 79 Speech Codes 84 Multiculturalism 89 Affirmative Action 92 Sexual Harassment 100 Postmodernism 103 Conclusion 106 Bibliography Essay 11 Index 117