Upgrade to the Flash 9 viewer for enhanced content, including the ability to browse & search through your favorite titles.
Click here to learn more!
An intimate history of the reformers, radicals, and idealists who fought for a different America, from the abolitionists to Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky.
While the history of the left is a long story of idealism and determination, it has also been a story of movements that failed to gain support from mainstream America. In American Dreamers, Michael Kazin--one of the most respected historians of the American left working today--tells a new history of the movements that, while not fully succeeding on their own terms, nonetheless made lasting contributions to American society. Among these culture shaping events are the fight for equal opportunity for women, racial minorities, and homosexuals; the celebration of sexual pleasure; the inclusion of multiculturalism in the media and school curricula; and the creation of books and films with altruistic and anti-authoritarian messages. Deeply informed, judicious and impassioned, and superbly written, this is an essential book for our times and for anyone seeking to understand our political history and the people who made it.
“Illuminating. . . . Kazin's ambition is to illustrate and argue, and he does both with exemplary skill. . . . A work of honest rigor. . . . Kazin understands the limitations of the left, its self-destructive divisions, its difficulty in establishing an American presence within an international movement. . . . It is, to say the least, timely.” —Los Angeles Times
“Robust. . . . A lively, panoramic account.” —The Washington Post
“A heartfelt and searingly honest assessment of the history of the social movements and individuals who challenged the established order of their day.” —The Nation
“Compendious and erudite. . . . For the political junkie as well as those simply curious about the saga of the left, his book is helpfully crammed with numerous informative portraits of famous as well as more neglected figures. . . . A careful and nuanced view of the saga of the American left.” —The Washington Monthly
“American Dreamers is Kazin's bid to reclaim the left's utopian spirit for an age of diminished expectations. An editor at Dissent magazine and one of the left's most eloquent spokesmen, Kazin presents his book as an unapologetic attempt to give the left a history it can celebrate. . . . American Dreamers is not a prescriptive book, offering instructions based on the past. Lessons nonetheless have a way of creeping into its text.” —The New York Times
“Kazin, a distinguished historian, provides an entertaining journey through some of the fascinating byways of American radicalism. . . . His writing is fluid, avoids professional jargon, and is often witty. Unlike many of his colleagues in history, with whom he shares a left-wing orientation, Kazin is fair to conservative critics of radicalism.” —National Review
“Kazin, a history professor at Georgetown University and an editor at Dissent magazine, tells this story clearly and with some muscle in his prose. He's not afraid to tarnish the halos of social democracy's secular saints.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Kazin argues, in this lively and informative account of radicalism in the United States, American dreamers had a substantial impact on culture, society and politics, expanding the meaning of equal opportunity, equal rights and personal liberty and pushing their fellow citizens to re-evaluate the nation's role in the world.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A spirited defense of the positive role played by left-wing radicals in shaping American society. . . . A coherent, wide-ranging analysis of a century of political and social activism in America.” —Kirkus Reviews
“[A] perceptive history of the radical left . . . a lively and lucid synthesis of a vital political tradition.” —Publishers Weekly
“Kazin, of Georgetown, is one of the great historians of American social movements, and though he is on the broad left, he has written sympathetically about figures not always associated with the left like William Jennings Bryan. This history deftly and honestly describes the victories and failures of the various left-wing movements in U.S. history and, even in a body of work as formidable as Kazin's, really stands out for its erudition and intelligence.” —Newsweek/The Daily Beast
“A history of the American left that manages to be both sweeping in scope and granular in capturing the people, known and less so, who figured in abolitionism, feminism, and labor rights, among others. Kazin’s final assessment strikes a delicate balance, arguing that the left has succeeded in shaping the nation’s culture in ways that are not fully appreciated even as it has so often fallen short in its institutional aims, particularly when it comes to matters of economic justice and equality.” —The New Republic
“Young progressives owe themselves the pleasure of reading American Dreamers to understand the tradition in which they’re engaged and how the historical successes and failures of the American Left shape the choices they face now. Kazin has shown through the years that asking questions relevant to current struggles does not distort history. On the contrary, in the hands of a relentlessly honest historian, this approach sheds new light on the past and unearths truths that eluded others. Kazin will be read many years from now as one the most productive, graceful, provocative and intelligent historians of our era, and American Dreamers is his masterwork.” —E. J. Dionne, author of Why Americans Hate Politics and Souled Out
“Michael Kazin writes about politics at its most romantic and reckless, with a rare empathy for history’s protagonists, great and humble. American Dreamers will stir those who share the left’s dreams and fascinate those who do not.” —Christopher Caldwell, senior editor, The Weekly Standard
“Michael Kazin’s American Dreamers could not be more timely. At a moment when ‘the left’ is a term of glib dismissal, Kazin resurrects a vital American radical tradition--everyone from Frederick Douglass and Emma Goldman to Betty Friedan and Doctor Seuss. With deft biographical portraits and telling historical detail, he shows how abolitionists, feminists, socialists, and even anarchists challenged Americans to embrace a larger life. Inspiring and engaging but also judiciously critical, American Dreamers reminds us that visions of utopia--whatever their flaws--remain an essential resource for creating a more humane society.” —Jackson Lears, Board of Governors Professor of History, Rutgers University
“With American Dreamers, Michael Kazin assumes his place in the tradition of Richard Hofstadter, Arthur Schlesinger, and Christopher Lasch as an invaluable interpreter of the American past as it applies to its present. This book is a tour de force of solid scholarship, stolid good sense, and remarkably precise and fluid prose. Simultaneously sympathetic and critical, it will be a pleasure for anyone interested in the left to read and a necessary challenge for its partisans to ponder.” —Eric Alterman, author of Why We’re Liberals
“Michael Kazin has distilled years of his deeply informed thinking into a eminently readable book full of astute judgments, bringing generations of radicals and reformers out of the shadows, restoring them to the honored place they deserve in the history of an America that serves ‘the better angels of our nature.’” —Todd Gitlin, author of The Sixties