An essential intellectual history of the American Left

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Copyright © 2005, Christopher Phelps. All rights reserved.


One of the most controversial figures in the history of American philosophy, Sidney Hook was "an intellectual street fighter" and "probably the greatest polemicist" of the twentieth century (Edward Shils).  Widely known as a Cold War liberal and an intellectual progenitor of neoconservativism, Hook began life as a feisty radical. This now-classic intellectual biography reconstructs Hook's youthful project of fusing American pragmatism and Marxism to create a distinctive approach to philosophy and a politics of revolutionary democratic socialism, carefully charting his interaction with intellectuals such as John Dewey and Max Eastman and his relationship to the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, the American Workers Party, and other political currents.

"This book is the best treatment of the best American Marxist philosopher-and the best philosopher to emerge from American slums. Young Sidney Hook is essential reading for anyone interested in democratic theory and practice in America."
---Cornel West

"A very detailed, and fascinating account of Hook's formative years . . . [a] first-rate contribution to the history of American leftist intellectual life."
---Richard Rorty, Raritan

"Fascinating . . . well researched and packed with information."
---Times Literary Supplement

"Succeeds in establishing the young Hook as a dedicated revolutionary Marxist."
---Amos Perlmutter, Washington Times

"A brilliant, lucid portrait of a scholar, adversarial by temperament, who turned his extraordinary powers of analysis and polemic successively against capitalism, Stalinism, and the New Left."
---Alan Wald, Monthly Review

"The best study of Hook's thought. . . . Supersedes all earlier treatments."
---David A. Hollinger and Charles Capper, The American Intellectual Tradition

"A major contribution to our understanding of Hook and the American Marxist tradition. . . . Extremely insightful."
---American Studies

"Persuasive. . . . Discovers not just a brilliant interpreter of Marx and the Russian Revolution, but a remarkable advocate and practitioner of the Americanization of Marxism."
---In These Times

"Phelps's effort to uncover, explore, and analyze Hook's forgotten leftism must be judged an unqualified success."
---Left History

"Penetrating, closely argued, and lucid. . . . An important contribution to the history of American radicalism in the 1930s."
---Labor History

One of the most controversial figures in the history of American philosophy, Sidney Hook was "an intellectual street fighter," who began his career as a brilliant Marxist thinker and "probably the greatest polemicist of [the 20th] century" (Edward Shils) before breaking with the Communist Party in the late 1930s. Turning in his later years to an allegiance with American conservatives including Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, Hook is now widely known as an intellectual father of the neoconservative movement.

Christopher Phelps is associate professor of American Studies at the University of Nottingham.