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.

His 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]



  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.