New Left marches on albeit minus masters

November 3, 1995

Fred Inglis relies upon nostalgic reminiscence rather than intelligent analysis. His argument neglects two important points. First, the intellectual and political conditions in which academic work is conducted have shifted massively since the late 1950s and early 1960s; the game of looking for contemporary equivalents of the figures who emerged in this period is ahistorical and misleading. Second, the work of some of the first New Left generation influenced subsequent lines of enquiry in a variety of fields, helping to engender the more complex, theoretically informed and fragmented intellectual terrain of today.

At various points in their work, thinkers such as Hall and Williams developed arguments which later generations used to subvert and challenge the orthodoxies of socialist thinking, including those of the earlier New Left. This occurred within the academy, in fields such as cultural studies and geography for example, and beyond, through some of the ideas of the new campaigns and movements of the 1970s and 1980s. The legacy of this current's intellectuals is actually more ambiguous and diffuse than Inglis's search for latter-day "heroes" reveals.

MICHAEL KENNY Lecturer in politics, Sheffield University

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