Drift and Mastery: An Attempt to Diagnose the Current Unrest

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Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1961 - History - 177 pages
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Drift and Mastery, originally published in 1914, is one of the most important and influential documents of the Progressive Movement, a valuable text for understanding the political thought of early twentieth-century America. This paperback edition of Walter Lippmann's classic work includes a revised introduction by William E. Leuchtenburg that places the book in its historical and political contexts.
    In his first book, A Preface to Politics, Lippmann was sharply critical of traditionalism in favor of creativity—so much so that he was accused of anti-intellectualism. In Drift and Mastery, he corrected this imbalance, exploring the tensions between expansion and consolidation, traditionalism an progressivism, emotion and rationality. He wrote to convince readers that they could balance these tensions: they could be organized, efficient, and functional without sacrificing impulse, choice, fantasy, or liberty. Mastery is attainable, Lippmann argued, but scientific endeavor is driven by human curiosity and creativity—an argument in favor of science as both a method as both a method for discovering the truth and a means of wish fulfillment through diligent attention to facts.
    Drift and Mastery is both a telling product of its times and a lucid exploration of timeless themes in American government and politics. It will continue to serve new generations of scholars and students in American intellectual history, mass communications, and political science.


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Drift and Mastery (Spectrum Book: Classics in History Series) by Walter Lippmann (1986) Read full review


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About the author (1961)

Walter Lippmann, an American political journalist, dominated political journalism in the United States from World War I almost until his death. In his last year as a student at Harvard University, he was an assistant to the philosopher George Santayana. He read extensively in Freud and was in every sense an "intellectual" journalist. "His Public Opinion" (1922) became the intellectual anchor for the study of public opinion, and it is widely read today. He came close in this book to questioning whether citizens can possibly make rational, democratic decisions. The source of the difficulty is not our irrationality but the inherent nature of the modern system of mass communication; information must be condensed into brief slogans. These slogans become stereotypes, a concept that Lippmann brilliantly analyzed prior to its acceptance by psychologists. As a political columnist, he wrote on many topics, particularly on foreign relations, and he held a position of prestige in Washington's press corps that has never been matched. Alastair Buchan wrote in 1974 that Walter Lippman was "the name that opened every door.

Born in Ridgewood (Queens), New York, William Leuchtenburg is currently William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was educated at Cornell University and at Columbia University, from which he received his Ph.D. in 1951. After teaching briefly at Smith College and Harvard University, he began a 30-year tenure on the faculty at Columbia, where he became De Witt Clinton Professor of American History in 1971. He has served as president of the Organization of American Historians, the Society of American Historians, and most recently (1991) the American Historical Association. He has also been Harmsworth Professor at Oxford University. Leuchtenburg is an expert on twentieth-century U.S. political history, especially the era of the New Deal. His book Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932--1940 (1963) won both the Bancroft and Parkman prizes.

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