Disciplined hope: on Irving Howe

In the long and laudable history of left-wing schism and self-inspection, this year’s winter issue of the progressive US magazine Dissent constituted something of a ‘shirtfront’ moment. It carried a piece by the political philosopher, and co-editor of the magazine, Michael Walzer, accusing the left, or a significant portion of it, of turning a blind eye to Islamic extremism. The left, said Walzer, had allowed its hatred of neoliberalism and economic imperialism to colour, and to temper, its ideological response to the rise of Islamic extremism as a global power. Declaring his intention to join what he called the ‘ideological wars’ against such extremism, and taking aim at the left’s cruising anti-Americanism, Walzer set out his case against the left in terms designed to prick its conscience: since Islamic extremism despises the very values of liberty, democracy and gender equality (‘universal’ values, not ‘Western’ ones) from which liberals and progressives claim descent, any left that declines to confront it, or tries to find excuses for it, is turning its back on its own best traditions; and, in turning its back on those traditions, preparing itself to march against them.

More here.

Also in SRB: an exchange on PEN and Charlie Hebdo.