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New Reformation

Paul Goodman et al.

Notes of a Neolithic Conservative

Emphasizing the importance of culture and the arts in society, this reprint of a 1960s classic–the author’s last book of social criticism–includes a new introduction that situates the late Paul Goodman in his era.

New Reformation was Paul Goodman’s last book of social criticism. The man who set the agenda for the Youth Movement of the Sixties with his best-selling Growing Up Absurd, and who wrote a book a year to keep his “crazy young allies” focused on the issues as he saw them, stepped back in 1970 to re-assess the results of what he considered a moral and spiritual upheaval comparable to the Protestant Reformation – “the breakdown of belief, and the emergence of new belief, in sciences and professions, education, and civil legitimacy.”
Michael Fisher’s introduction situates Goodman in his era and traces the development of his characteristic insights, now the common wisdom of every radical critique of American society. A poet and novelist famous in his day for books on decentralization, community planning, psychotherapy, education, linguistics, and media, nowhere is Goodman’s voice more prescient and still relevant than in New Reformation.

“As this decade in America careens, recoils, and shrieks along, Paul Goodman appears increasingly as our most exemplary intellectual, that is, the most deeply representative and the most worthy one.”
– Theodore Solatoroff in The Washington Post

“Goodman’s frightening brilliance and integrity scared people, for his was the honesty of the moral man who saw things and connections with clarity that others did not even know were there. Writers and thinkers have a vogue. They are in fashion or forgotten. If Goodman is forgotten, if his work is found only in ash heaps, it is where humanity will end up.”
– Marcus Raskin, co-founder, Institute for Policy Studies

“His pleading, sane, frank, troubled and by now tired voice is one of the truest and wisest in American life.”
–Kenneth Keniston, New York Times

Paul Goodman, known in his day as “the philosopher of the New Left,” set the agenda for the youth movement of the Sixties with his best-selling Growing Up Absurd. He produced new books every year throughout that turbulent decade, while lecturing to hundreds of audiences on the nation’s campuses, covering subjects that ranged from movement politics to education and community planning; from psychotherapy and religion to literature, language theory, and media. There was little that did not fall within his purview as an old-fashioned “man of letters.” During this same heady period of his fame he also published his public letters and his journals, the Living Theatre performed his plays, his poems were set to music, and his fiction was chosen for book club distribution. America’s most celebrated public intellectual at the time of his death in 1972, his work still resonates for our own times of national crisis.

In his probing introduction to New Reformation, cultural and intellectual historian Michael C. Fisher speaks for a new generation of young scholars still in their twenties, as he assesses the initial impact and continuing relevance of Goodman’s problematic love affair with the radical youth of the Sixties. Fisher wrote his honors thesis on Goodman as an undergraduate at the University California at Davis, and is currently in his second year of doctoral studies in history at the University of Rochester.

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