The Vital Center

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First edition (publ. Houghton Mifflin)
Cover design by Samuel Hanks Bryant

The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom is a 1949 book by Harvard historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. It defends liberal democracy and a state-regulated market economy against the totalitarianism of communism and fascism.

Summary[edit]

Schlesinger's argument runs as follows: modern man has been detached from his moorings by capitalism and technology. Searching for a new solidarity, he finds this in communism, but it has been really a totalitarian military dictatorship run by the Communist Party since Lenin "exposed Marxist socialism to the play of... influences which divested it of its libertarian elements."[1] Instead of this totalitarian road, a strong and interventionist liberalism is needed, New Deal-style, in the tradition of American leadership in the liberal world order and of the national reforms of Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt. This would be practical and anti-utopian, and would "restore the balance between individual and community."[2]

Academic Freedom[edit]

Schlesinger writes:

The deeper issue is the freedom of the teacher to teach his subject according to his most responsible understanding of it, and not according to the ukase of a board of trustees, a legislature, a political party, or a foreign country.[3]

He also stated that "unmolested inquiry is essential." He cites Harvard University president James Bryant Conant: "A free society must dedicate itself to the protection of the unpopular view."[3]

Editions[edit]

  • The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1949.
  • The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers. 1998. ISBN 1-56000-989-6.

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers. 1998. p. 64. ISBN 1-56000-989-6.
  2. ^ Richard Seymour, The Liberal Defense of Murder (London 2008), p. 122.
  3. ^ a b Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. (1949). The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom. Houghton Mifflin. p. 208. Retrieved 2 September 2018.