chapter
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Norman Birnbaum

WithJoyce Appleby, Elizabeth Covington, David Hoyt, Michael Latham, Allison Sneider

Alexis de Tocqueville was not the only scholar to have set the United States apart from the history and culture of European nations; such a distinction has been commonplace of cultural, political, and intellectual expression since the first European visited the New World. Tocqueville had argued that the future of democratic modernity in both the United States and Europe was headed down two distinctly different paths. The sentiment has persisted into the twentieth century. Norman Birnbaum, himself an American-born sociologist, has spent much of his career attempting to bring the power of European social theory to bear on the substance of an American experience that he feels has progressed without the tools equal to its understanding. To this end he served as a co-founding editor of the New Left Review in 1957, seeking to draw European traditions of critically engaged philosophy and sociology into an American intellectual environment whose focus on consensus was felt to have restricted its capacity for fundamental criticisms of the status quo.