Subverted is an engagingly written memoir by a successful freelance journalist who spent two rookie years working as an underpaid staff writer for Cosmopolitan magazine in New York during the early 1970s and contributed articles off and on to Cosmo until the mid-1990s, when, having discovered that editor Helen Gurley Brown was still systematically underpaying her, she got into a compensation snit with Brown’s myrmidons, and effectively ended her relationship with the sex tell-all women’s magazine. What Subverted is not, however, is a demonstration of (in the words of its subtitle) How I Helped the Sexual Revolution Hijack the Women’s Movement.…
We have actually contrived to invent a new kind of hypocrite. The old hypocrite, Tartuffe or Pecksniff, was a man whose aims were really worldly and practical, while he pretended that they were religious. The new hypocrite is one whose aims are really religious, while he pretends that they are worldly and practical.
G. K. Chesterton
A somewhat quixotic friend whom I’ll call Gus dropped by the other day to reprove me for recurring error. “Don’t take this wrong, Steve,” Gus said. “You know that you and I agree on a quite a few things. But I’m concerned. I have to object.”
“Object to what?” I asked.
“In your last book,” Gus explained, “and in a number of recent articles, and in a blog post just a day or so ago, you describe the current cultural conflict that is tearing up America as one between traditional ‘religion’ and a conflicting movement that you describe as ‘secular.’ ‘Secular egalitarianism,’ you sometimes call it.”
“Okay. And the problem is. . . ?”
“The problem is that this is a fundamental misdescription.”
So what is “liberalism” today? Is it a mere grab-bag of miscellaneous policy preferences, or some coherent thing, with an intelligible cause and purpose?
In an ambitious project, historians Donald T. Critchlow and W.J. Rorabaugh aim to answer these questions. In their book, Takeover: How the Left’s Quest for Social Justice Corrupted Liberalism, the authors argue that contemporary liberalism represents an coherent political project that was launched in the 1960s by the “New Progressives.” These reformers rejected the modest aims of the old liberals, who, according to the Critchlow and Rorabaugh, had sought merely to mitigate the evils of industrial capitalism. Instead, the New Progressives aimed for a comprehensive transformation of the American economy and even the whole society, by means of a massive expansion in the size and scope of the government. Consequently, today’s liberal agenda “is much more radical and encompassing.”