Week 7: American ideologies and political movements: Liberalism and the New Left

Lecture recording


Lecture notes

Tutorial readings

Questions: What is American liberalism? Why was liberalism the dominant ideology in the 1960s? Was the liberal "Great Society" program of Lyndon Johnson misguided? Why is liberal a swear word today in America? What are the principal differences between American liberals and conservatives? Why was the American Right so politically successful in the 1980s and 1990s? What is meant by the term New Right in America? Why are religious leaders and evangelical groups so politically organised in America? And why are these religious groups generally strongly Right-wing? How has Right-wing politics become populist politics in America? What is the basis of the Right's constant anti-government rhetoric? Can you see clear contradictions and tensions within the American Right? What was the New Left?

Required readings:

  • Eric Foner and John Garraty (Eds.) The Reader’s Companion to American History, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991. (Read the definitions of Conservatism, Constitution, Liberalism and New Left).
  • Brendon O’Connor, A Political History of the American Welfare System, Lanham, M.D.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003, pp. 19-49.
  • Christopher Lasch, The True and Only Heaven, New York: Norton, 1991, chapter 11.
  • Peter Beinart, “The War over Patriotism” Time, June 26, 2008.


  • Eric Alterman and Kevin Mattson, The Cause, New York: Viking, 2012: 416-460.
  • E.J. Dionne Jr, Why Americans Hate Politics, New York, Simon & Schuster, 2004: 31-43 (On the New Left).


Liberalism in crisis

Ginsberg's Howl, anti-Vietnam war and counter-culture