For nearly two decades (up until the end of the 1980s), scholars tended to define the New Left as just one political movement of the 1960s whose members were mainly white students in rebellion against the middle-class ethos and affluent suburban way of life of their parents. Moreover, the New Left was described as a kind of “anomaly” in the history of the American Left. It was supposedly less influenced by Marxist theory, more pragmatic, and more opposed to any form of centralized authority than the so-called Old Left of the 1930s. The premise of this exceptionalist theory was that ever since the Gilded Age, the American Left (whether one thinks of Lawrence Gronlund, the Christian socialists, the Socialist Party of America created in 1901, or the Communist Party from 1919 to the late 1930s) had always been influenced by a foreign ideology, while the New Left was more typically “American” and very much influenced by pragmatic thinkers and post-World War II sociologists such as C. Wright Mills and Arnold Kaufman.1 In the past fifteen years or so, a new generation of historians has begun to challenge this exceptionalist theory, highlighting the links between the Old and New Lefts. They have made a point of showing that

the New Left is part and parcel of an American leftist tradition and that, far from being limited to the middle-class white members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), it encompassed a myriad of groups struggling for social, economic, and political change from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. As Van Gosse puts it, “Politically, the New Left put into question Cold War liberalism, while economically it confronted the deep enduring inequalities built into American history” (2005, 5-6). But the New Left’s protest also comprised a cultural and intellectual dimension that is being increasingly explored by historians. Following the path taken by Maurice Isserman and John P. Diggins in the 1980s, Kevin Mattson, Andrew Hunt, and Van Gosse have focused more specifically on the intellectual links between Old Left theoreticians, the thinkers of the 1950s, and the New Left.