[This book review by Dr. Howard Hurwitz appeared in the February 1988 issue of The St. Croix Review, pp. 46-47.  The book under review was later republished, with an updating chapter on multiculturalism, by Scott-Townsend Publishers as Liberalism in Contemporary America.] 

 

Book Review

 

Liberal Thought in Modern America

Dwight D. Murphey

University Press of America, 1987

 

 Reviewed by Howard Hurwitz

 

            Dwight D. Murphey of Wichita State University has devoted over two decades to a critical survey of Western civilization over the centuries.  In this fourth and final volume, which can be fully appreciated on its own, he examines liberalism in the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries.

            We have in Dr. Murphey a no-nonsense scholar who might well invite the animus of liberal hit-men.  He names names and what is even more threatening from the viewpoint of liberals, he lets them speak for themselves as they make clear their positions.  They are far more closely linked to socialism than to any other ism.  It is evident from Dr. Murphey’s analysis that it is conservatives who are the classical liberals; today’s liberals are the negation of classical liberals who rejected government domination of their lives.

            Although Dr. Murphey pulverizes liberal thought, especially as it has been enunciated in The Nation and The New Republic, virtual diaries of liberal thought, he does not stoop to invective.  He writes clearly and confidently with no fear of treading on toes as big as the two progressive Roosevelts and the smaller socialist toes of John Dewey, Thorstein Veblen, and John Galbraith, among many others.

            Although it is liberal thought that occupies his attention, his political assessments are pertinent.  It is dismaying but nonetheless true, as Dr. Murphey observes, that “Despite Reagan’s strongly conservative philosophy, neither presidential election in which he was elected was made a vehicle for a philosophical articulation of conservatism.”

            Dr. Murphey’s provocative generalizations and fingering of persons whom he charges with “dissimulating,” are documented in footnotes at the end of chapters.  There is a helpful index.

             The book is printed in a kind of typescript that may repel initially, although it is very clear.  It is only a matter of moments, however, before you will be captivated by the insights of a thorough scholar who has earned a sure place among our foremost conservative thinkers. 

 

Howard Hurwitz, president of University Professor for Academic Order and author of An Encyclopedia Dictionary of American History.