[This is the Foreword, by historian Otto Scott, to Murphey's book Liberalism in Contemporary America.]
This is the final book in a quartet that began with a historical examination of what Dwight Murphey terms man's immaturity -- an immaturity that leads him into discontent no matter what his circumstances or position.
The first volume of the quartet takes us through a marvelous sweep of the centuries, and constitutes an overview of the past, concluding with the present. It ends, unforgettably, with an objective description of our society, which has lost the allegiance of our intellectuals, who no longer defend us against totalitarianism.
This is a strong message; almost too strong for a single volume. Therefore Dr. Murphey wisely decided to examine, in depth, the major social and political philosophies that constitute contemporary, contradictory trends. These examinations occupy the remainder of the quartet.
In the course of this great undertaking, Dr. Murphey has persistently quoted from the writings of those he has examined. He has not followed the usual academic fashion of subsuming, or paraphrasing these views into his text and relegating their spokesmen to footnotes or to appendices. He has attached names to views. He has avoided the abstract and stuck to the particular as much as is possible in discussing ideas.
Dr. Murphey has followed this course in examining Socialism, Burkean Conservatism, Classical Liberalism and Modern Liberalism. He has not only traced the development of these philosophies, but their impact on the world through his particulars regarding their spokesmen and leaders.
This is an important approach, though persons caught in the passageways of political structures may not fully appreciate it, because ideas are what rule the world. Men move along the rails of their ideas, however random their movements may appear.
To understand movements, therefore, we must understand ideas. But at the same time, we cannot divorce ideas from the men they motivate. In Liberal Thought in Modern America, Dr. Murphey has identified the modern liberal intellectual community as promoting diverse and even contradictory programs in order to create influential power blocs. [Note: This was the title of the University Press of America edition, for which Scott wrote this Foreword. The edition that appears here is that later published by Scott-Townsend, entitled Liberalism in Contemporary America.]
In order to accomplish this, Dr. Murphey provides a mountain of evidence indicating that modern liberal leaders have sedulously avoided terming themselves Socialists, failed to create a Socialist Party as such, but chose instead to conceal their Socialism under the protective coloration of the liberal label. In comparing Socialist programs and principles with those advanced, defended or protected by modern liberals, Dr. Murphey has proven that the difference is almost entirely semantic.
On at least two occasions, Dr. Murphey believes, the American liberal community "has come very close to embracing totalitarian societies. These were," he says, "the early 1930s and the late 1960s...."
There was nothing in the least "liberal" about these slips, any more than there is any evidence of classical liberalism in the modern liberal tendency to shout down opposition, to engage in ad hominem methods of argument, or to engage in blacklisting and censorship: all tactics regularly employed by self-styled liberal cadres.
In uncovering the disguises of modern American liberalism, therefore, Dr. Murphey has made a major contribution. He has clarified, in the most scholarly manner, person after person and a stream of events that reveal a consistent pattern of dissimulation.
In the course of this searching examination, such figures as Herbert Croly, Theodore Roosevelt, Christopher Jencks, John Rawls, Robert Heilbroner, Robert Lekachman, Irving Howe and others appear in a new -- and not a notably admirable light.
For dissemblers should not be honored in any society. What Dr. Murphey has done has stripped the masks from many influential dissemblers.
In undertaking this task he has, as we all know, placed himself in a position of peril. It is a notorious fact of American life that anyone who takes issue with our liberal intellectuals can expect to encounter withering silence and private efforts to damage his career, or a torrent of abuse and public efforts to destroy his career.
In such a climate, it requires considerable moral courage to step forward even once. To do so in a major work that spans four volumes is extraordinary. I am proud to contribute a Foreword to such an eminent analysis, although I do not agree with all of Dr. Murphey's positions.
Not too long ago Dr. Robert Nisbet observed that he knew of no society that survived secularization. I tend to agree with that. I believe that the West, by breaking with its Christian heritage, at least on the top reaches of government, by that break began a terrible decline. Its dynamism began to ebb with its spiritual certainty.
Dr. Murphey sees this in part, and has made some very pertinent observations about the loss of a religion for which men are willing to die. On the other hand, we are witnesses to the fact that men will die even for religious substitutes, such as National Socialism, or Communism. Therefore this aspect of our situation may require more thought, more examination, more study.
But no such thought, examination or study will, or in my opinion can, negate or diminish what Dr. Murphey has produced. His analysis of immaturity and alienation carries the observations of Ortega y Gasset, whom he credits with his original inspiration, several steps beyond The Revolt of the Masses.
These are steps that needed to be taken; an examination long overdue. All credit, then, to the scholar who has undertaken that task, and published his results.
15 August 1986