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Repressive Tolerance, &c.

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger built an excellent column on the deep thoughts of Herbert Marcuse. Marcuse was the favorite theorist of the New Left, the man who, as Henninger recalls, developed the theory of “repressive tolerance” that provided the basis for a lot of mischief on campus.

The mention of Marcuse’s name brought memories flooding back. When I headed off to college in 1969, Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man was packed neatly into my briefcase. Does anybody still read it? I’m amazed to see it’s still in print.

Other books packed into my small briefcase as I headed off for college:

Paul Goodman, Growing Up Absurd (published in 1960, restored to print in the NYRB Classics series, in which we learned how corporations deadened our souls, though I was having a pretty good time).

Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (gone but not forgotten, Fanon makes a cameo appearance in Dreams From My Father, but of course).

R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience (mental illness is good).

Carlos Castenada, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge (the first in Castenada’s endless series of fictional sociological studies of an Indian shaman working wonders with psychedelic drugs…heavy!).

Norman O. Brown, Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History (hey, it inspired Jim Morrison…and the book has an interesting chapter on Jonathan Swift).

James Simon Kunen, The Strawberry Statement: Notes of a College Revolutionary (turned into a lousy movie, the book is now a collector’s item…damn, what did I do with my copy?).

Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice (sick, sick, sick, and still in print…I recall that Eric Hoffer nailed it as “soul on horse manure”…though Cleaver became a Christian, a capitalist, and a memorable guest of WFB on Firing Line).

I read them all and a few more. At one time, theses books were all the rage. You have to wonder about the vagaries of reputation when the organs of the mainstream media are run by the left for the benefit of its friends. If you’re under 50, I think you would almost have to be a student of the era to have a clue about any of these books or their authors (although Obama testifies to the influence of Fanon).

I could go on, but I’m killing brain cells trying to dredge these names up from memory. As soon as the authors died or (like Kunen) moved on to other pursuits, the machinery of their renown was turned off and they sunk into the dim recesses of time.

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